Friday, September 28, 2007

99 Days!!! ~ Whew!

I am so relieved that we are down to the double-digits for
the wedding countdown. This semester has been a blur, and I find it hard to
believe that Fall Break is next week. Yes, there are plenty of
items left on the ever-increasing To-Do List, but I am looking forward to the
day when I can say that I have survived this semester...

The highlight of the school semester has been our Marriage Enrichment class. The class is in the middle of a three-week segment of communication exercises. Dr. Cutrer has us divided into small groups and within those groups we are instructed to pick a topic for discussion with our spouse/fiance'. The topics are intended to be neutral issues the two can commonly agree upon, rather than one broadsiding the other with some kind of attack. While the spouses are in the hot seat, the rest of the small group listens and observes how they are relating to one another (and whether or not they are really listening). I know that some can treat these as they are titled, mere "exercises," but there is so much to glean from such an assignment. Rather than treating it as an assignment, our small group as a whole seems to have really savored the opportunity to learn from one another. It's amazing what can be revealed when you are forced in such a setting to examine your tone of voice, nonverbals, and ability to actually listen in the presence of others. You also learn that men and women simply communicate in different ways on different levels, and much tension and anger can be alleviated when such is considered while trying to talk through an important or seemingly insignificant issue (I say that because I have been amazed at how quickly a "non-issue" escalates into one that is anything but insignificant).

With that said, here are more quotes from When Sinners Say "I Do", the book I have been reading during the few winks of spare time I have:

  • This might be a helpful illustration for understanding the operation of remaining sin. Original sin fills the "engine" of our hearts with the "oil" of depravity--dark, greasy, and staining everything it touches. Circumstances come along and heat the engine. When the engine is hot--when events in our lives test our hearts--whatever is in the engine spews out. The heat (the circumstances) did not fill the engine with oil, it simply revealed what was in the engine. ~p. 70-71
  • Your spouse was a strategic choice made by a wise and loving God. Selected by Him, for you, from the beginning of the world, your spouse is an essential part of God's rescue mission for your life. Often a spouse plays his or her part by raising the engine temperature and heating the oil. But if we're wisely honest we will realize that God is behind it all, revealing the familiar sin so that it might be overcome by amazing grace. ~p. 71
  • It's not wrong to desire appropriate things like respect or affection from our spouses. But it is very tempting to justify demands by thinking of them as needs and then to punish one another if those needs are not satisfied. A needs-based marriage does not testify to God's glory; it is focused on personal demands competing for supremacy. ~p. 74
  • Sinners who say "I do" have a different road to travel. It is the road of astonishing, undeserved grace--a grace so remarkable that it shows us the problem and then delivers the solution. ~p. 75

Thursday, September 27, 2007

~ 100 DAYS ~

The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord
She is His new creation by water and the Word
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

101 Days ~ Unexpected Awe

How often do you have a moment wherein you are overcome with complete awe? One of those moments when the awe is so great you find yourself incapable of uttering any words. The silence speaks for itself and anything spoken would cheapen or ruin the beauty. I was on my way to work this morning, running through the day's schedule as usual and wondering what was in store for the hours ahead. As I exited the highway, I looked up at this brilliant display. I somehow managed to capture it on my phone (thankfully there were no cars around, and no, I am not in the habit of taking pictures while behind the wheel). When all around me is busy, tiresome and hectic, I am filled at such unanticipated moments with words of rest and assurance ~ Peace, be still. Be still and know that I am God. Come to Me all ye who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. ~ Such grace, love and mercy that He softly reminds us of such truth at times when He knows we need those reminders most..

Saturday, September 22, 2007

105 Days ~ It's becoming real!

Those were his words as we finished signing our names to the lease for our TOWNHOME! My reactions were a little different -- I kept messing up the application due to the overwhelming excitement I had knowing that this really is all starting to sink in. We are almost at the double-digit mark of how many days are left until the wedding, and I cannot express just how giddy I was in the leasing office knowing that my fiance' will be moving in first in just two months!! We are actually going to live here, making our very first home together... I am just going to close this post with that to prevent this from becoming the hundredth time I've happy cried this week~

Thursday, September 20, 2007

107 Days ~ "Together with their parents..."

Are these really our invitations with our names on them inviting guests to attend our wedding?!?! Oh my goodness...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

110 Days ~ Trials Together

If this post comes across as a somewhat scattered compilation of thoughts, then I will have successfully given my faithful readers a glimpse of how things have been going this past week. Most days are spent in tension between wondering if I should laugh or cry, and having an indescribable sense of sheer excitement or moments of silent wonder at how the Lord brings about trials. I don't know that I could adequately explain how those emotions all work together, but they are somehow doing that in me even now.
  • Be still, and know that I am God... -Psalm 46:10

This past week began with rough, honestly unbelievable, news coming from all directions. My mother-in-law received test results that only showed other cancerous (or the potential) spots. She began chemotherapy on Friday and will do so on that day of the week until October. Once her two twelve-week rounds of chemo are completed, they will then perform surgery. Radiation will inevitably follow, which means that she will, once again, be away from the comfort of her own home since both surgery and radiation will take place at the hospital in Houston. She had just returned home from an entire summer spent taking care of her own mother when the lumps were discovered, and about the time she was getting settled, she found herself going back and forth once again. Paired with this came news of our pastor's wife. At thirty six weeks pregnant with her fourth child, she too has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The doctor confirmed that the cancer is aggressive, which means they will be inducing the baby earlier than the due date (this week). She will only have a week of rest before they begin the necessary steps to treatment.

  • Sometimes the way is lonely, and steep and filled with pain ~ so if your sky is dark and pours the rain ~ then cry to Jesus, cry to Jesus cry to Jesus and live -Chris Rice

I finally broke down this week (and not just once) at how completely overwhelming all of this was. The only way I can describe it is that there was this tension between grieving the pain of such news and continuing in excitement over planning my own wedding. Questions flooded my mind all week as to how I should and should not respond or feel about all of this. Everything came to a head on Friday night when my fiance' sat me down and let me cry for quite some time. He then held my face, looked into my eyes and said, "No matter what happens, the Lord is good." How often has joy been restored by one simple statement? Such does not happen with me often. In fact, I'm one who often needs to be poked and prodded when I'm down in order to pull me back up. But this time, it took one simple statement which I knew was an encouraging word from the Lord. He truly is good, and He is faithful to hold us during the dark times. The professor teaching our marriage class provided us an incredible statement to reflect upon early in the semester: "Trials are better when faced together." Little did I know at the time just how real such a statement would become in a matter of days and hours. Think about this for a moment - our lives are not what we thought they would be this time last week. My life is not what I was expecting it to be a matter of days ago, much less last week. The Lord knows exactly what we need. He knows exactly where to pierce us, the very things that will move us to fall at His feet. He knows such things because He knows us better than we know ourselves. This is astonishing, should leave us utterly humbled and speechless, and I don't know that we pause often enough to reflect on such truth.

  • How would I know the morning If I knew not midnight? - Nichole Nordeman

There are things I am oblivious to at this point in my life, things the Lord is working in that remain unknown. But what I do know is that which I have already stated and have been praying continually for those around me who are hurting in ways I could not begin to imagine - The Lord is good and does all things for our good and ultimately for His own glory. All things work together for good and the trials truly are better when faced together. Not easier by any means, but I am learning in ways I clearly was not expecting that we are called to walk through this valley together and not alone.

Brother, let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace
To let you be my servant, too
I will hold the Christlight for you
In the night-time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
Speak the peace you long to hear
I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh I'll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we've seen this journey through

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Monday, September 03, 2007

124 Days ~ When Sinners Say "I Do"

"When Sinners Say 'I Do'..." The title of the book quickly grabbed my attention a few weeks ago. Not only is the author affiliated with Sovereign Grace Ministries, but every review emphasized the author's focus on mercy and forgiveness in marriage. Needless to say, I was interested. I also requested the trusted opinion of my dear friend and fellow reader who also gave a clear and enthusiastic recommendation of Dave Harvey's book (and not because she's trying to sell books at Lifeway). But wait a second...was I crazy these past few weeks to think that I could squeeze in yet another book, and not one required for class? I walked in and out of Lifeway a couple of times this past week with other tasks in mind, whether buying a card for a friend or purchasing the next book on our reading schedule for Systematic Theology. Everytime I thought about purchasing this book, one more book to add to my seemingly endless collection, images came to mind of wedding plans, reading for all of my classes, working 35 hours each week, keeping up with the Hebrew language, and remembering to eat and sleep somewhere in between. No, I thought to myself, I am not going to buy another book right now. How silly to think that I would actually have the time! Well, I bought it on Thursday. Other thoughts came to mind as I was skimming over the chapter titles and deciding that I was going to invest in this particular book: reading from older, much wiser men and women on the matter of forgiveness and grace in marriage, the benefit of incorporating a book into devotional time spent with the Lord. Thoughts of school and work were put on the backburner as I remembered something a professor recently mentioned in one of my classes: "Not spending time with God is like deciding not to breathe." Maybe it sounds extreme at first, but think of the admitted truth behind such a statement. What are all of these tasks and events that fill up our days and weeks when our lives are void of devotional time with the Lord? That is precisely how it feels, as if the life has been zapped from things that really are good in and of themselves. But when we are not focused on Christ, when we tell ourselves day in and day out that we just don't have the time to rise early or stay up a little while longer at night to meditate on His Word, to spend time on our knees in prayer (both praise and confession), we find ourselves looking back on the day wondering why such a busy calendar of events could feel so empty... I am not an expert in the art of book reviews. I would much rather just provide a few quotes that have already been of great conviction in the first couple of chapters.
  • "What do all of us do in our marriages in some way? We all tend to deny our sin (while pointing out the sin of the other). By denying our sin, we devalue grace. . . . in ways that are very practical, Jesus is the only solution. . . . grace makes new beginnings possible. It challenged me to live like I really believe I can be a tool of God's grace." ~p. 12, Paul David Tripp
  • "We must not ignore our sin, because it is the very context where the gospel shines the brightest. Grace is truly amazing because of what we were saved from." ~p. 16
  • "...the gospel is an endless fountain of God's grace in your marriage. To become a good theologian and to be able to look forward to a lifelong, thriving marriage, you must have a clear understanding of the gospel. Without it, you cannot see God, yourself, or your marriage for what they truly are." ~p. 25
  • "But for us to become more like Christ, we must reckon with the fact that we are sinners; forgiven, yes, but still battling the inward drive to turn away from God to ourselves. Without such biblical clarity, we have no context for the cross and no ongoing awareness of our need for grace and mercy." ~p.29
  • "...until we truly understand the problem, we won't savor the solution. Isn't that your testimony? Haven't you seen that the more you comprehend the scope of sin's awfulness, the more quickly you flee to the Savior, now revealed anew in His glory, holiness, beauty, and power?" ~p. 30
If you are wondering as to the nature and wisdom of a particular book, you can at least know the author is off to a good start when the starting point of all content is the foundation and centrality of the Gospel. I began reading the introductory material (written by Paul David Tripp, another Gospel-centered, excellent author) after an argument I had with my fiance' that began and ended in a manner rather commonplace in regard to my own sin and manner of reaction. I look back at that exchange now and can see so clearly (clarity in hindsight, yes) the patterns that are so prevalent in how I respond to the man who is going to be my husband in a few short months. I have much to learn, and I know that many moments of confession and seeking forgiveness are in store for the future. But I also know that I am a sinner saved by grace. I am responsible for my own sin, rather than the tendency to project onto him and not confront myself. Through prayer, repentance, and time truly spent with the Lord, I hope and trust that He will make me into the tool of grace I am intended to be as a wife and life partner to this godly, patient, Christ-centered man.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

126 Days ~ A Friend's Dream

Do you remember your dreams from the night before? Are you bold enough to share them with others, even when they are the kind that make very little sense? One of my oldest and dearest friends emailed me yesterday for the simple reason of telling me about her dream from the night before. I sat at work cracking up as I read through it, not only because of how random the dream was but because Stef has always managed to make me laugh in a way that is unique to her and no one else. So if you read the following recollection and you are left in utter confusion and thinking to yourself that I have a weird sense of humor, well...hmm. This would not have been nearly as funny had it come from someone else with whom I haven't shared such a history. For the rest of you, try to imagine yourself retelling a dream to someone exactly as it occurred in your brain...

"I don't know
why my brain decided to dream about your wedding... but it did. I dreamt
that I was running late, and I didn't think ahead of time, so i didn't have any
clean nice clothes. I didn't know what I was going to do... but I was
already running late. So I figured, I'd rather wear dumb clothes and get
to see you walking down the aisle than try to find something nice to wear and
miss that part. So there I went, in a brown shirt and khakis. Like I
said, I was running late... so there weren't many seats open. I didn't
know anyone at the wedding, and I was by myself, so I had to ask these strangers
to scoot over so i could sit (of course, I'm embarrassed because of what I'm
wearing, and because now that I"m late, I get the good aisle seat... and I had
no idea of this person I was asking to scoot over was really close to you, and
wanted to make sure she had the isle seat.) Then I noticed a whole empty
row at the front and went and sat in that. I wondered why no one had taken
that row... and was scared it might be for family... but I saw everyone in
your family already seated. So I figured what they hey. Then I
looked back toward the back of the church where you would enter, and I saw you
in your gown from a distance. I thought... that's funny, everyone
else has to walk down the aisle first, but when I looked back you were
gone. This is where it gets weird... and I'm probably not going to be able
to explain it well: So the braidesmaids started to come down the aisle,
but they were in that outfit that Sandie was wearing at the end of Grease, when
they're at the fair. Those black outfit with the really high leather
pants. On the back it said "Grease Lightnin'." And they were walking
with a strut. I thought, Oh, I didn't know she was having a theme wedding.
Somehow, I'm at the back of the church now, and I'm with Jenny
*one of my
We see an altercation, and then someone shoot a guy in a
baseball uniform, and then throw him in a pizza box...but the whole thing looked
pretty fake (Now in my dream, there was a story like this all over the
news... it was some college baseball player, and he got killed and thrown
in a pizza box to see if he would bounce) A few people were calling the
police... but I thought it was something to do with the wedding. Then
the minister turned and look toward the gunman and said that Christ died for us
when we were still sinners, so then I knew it was part of the
message. He started to speak about how God "sweeps" up our mistakes.
At this point, I looked at the floor and it was COVERED in filth, and there was
a hand sweeper right next to me. So I proceed to sweep the floor. As
I make my to the front (I'm on my hands and knees sweeping) I realize that
I'm on an incline, and that I have no traction... so I start sliding. Now
all the attention is taken off the wedding, and everyone is watching me
sliding. I now realize that "what in the world was I doing sweeping the
floor at your wedding?" So anyway, I'm sliding sliding and I can't
stop... so I position myself to crash into a pew to stop my sliding. I
told you this was weird. Then your wedding party comes out again with
costumes and they do a chaotic scene from Pirates of the Caribbean. There
was a lot of swashbuckling and screaming... and it was just chaos.
Then you came out with huge sunglasses on, and you played a role too. You
came over by me (I'm in the front row again somehow) and said "this is kind of
dragging on isn't it? i didn't plan for it to be so long." Then you
asked me if I would play a role, and go get a pineapple to put on this big totem
pole thing. Then Phoebe
*Stef's little dog* was there (I don't know how
she got there), and she started barking. I felt really bad... but you came
over and played with her. Then there was more scenes... and you coming out
in different outfits... but never in your wedding gown to do the vows.
Then Jarrod *
Stef's husband* woke me up, and I asked him to let me go back
to sleep so I could see what your wedding dress looked like... but I never got
the dream back. Weird."