Friday, May 30, 2008

Favorite Photo(s) Friday - Too Much Wedding Cake!

Bridesmaid taking a dive into the groom's cake
Bridesmaid either dancing or getting ready throw a fireball

And, well, no real explanation for these two!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

When you can't trace His hand...

I have been following a particular woman's blog for several weeks now. While I don't remember how I came across her blog originally, I do know why I continue to read as she is processing an event that many of us cannot even begin to comprehend. I have also hesitated to mention it on here because her story is not for the faint of heart, nor is it an easy read even for those who trust in God's sovereignty.

The story of Audrey Caroline Smith is one that has become more and more known through the networking of friends and others who are part of the blogging world. I was drawn to this story not only because I have historically been a huge fan of Selah, but also because of how candid Angie is in expressing how she is getting through each day without her fourth daughter present to touch and see and hear. This testimony has reminded me more than anything has in quite some time of just how fragile life is and how much we take those we love for granted. Not only that, but I have been reminded of how fragile the process of carrying and giving life to a baby truly is. I have been reminded of my own questions regarding childbirth, those related to my medical condition that make me wonder if I should even try. And these are questions removed from the potential for any other difficulties such as infertility. I am also reminded of why we were created, and why only One is deserving of praise for what He has done and for whatever He is doing even when our feeble minds can't comprehend.

I frequent Angie's blog, and today was no different as I had a couple of minutes here at work to browse around. Little did I know that I would read about yet another unimaginable event that has affected this precious family so soon after the loss they have already experienced.

Most of you reading this have already heard about the news of the Chapman family's great loss. May these fellow brothers and sisters, some of whom we may never meet in this lifetime, compel us to prayer and praise to the awesome God who has created us. Every breath and every detail of what we are faced with and given are from His hand. In my limited comprehension of such tragic events, I can only speak from my own experiences to such individuals. But there is great hope in knowing that we aren't left to rely on our own understanding.

Be still my soul the Lord is on your side
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still my soul thy best, thy heavenly friend
Through stormy ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still my soul the waves and winds still know, still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.
(arrangment by Nicol Smith Sponberg and Allan Hall on the album Be Still My Soul)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

One thing I have learned over the course of this past semester is to savor the weekends I am given. I don't say or feel that for selfish gain, but because I have learned to take advantage of any downtime I am afforded. The week is so full, even when I am not simultaneously juggling school, with work responsibilities and other details that zap my energy if I allow them to do so. I remember a day when I felt like something was wrong with me if my weekends were free of events, but times have surely changed. I see time for rest and reflection as a gift, particularly since I am not a disciplined individual by nature.

I have shamelessly taken advantage of being out of school as I can now spend time reading for enjoyment and devotionally rather than reading according to a deadline. One book in particular that I had to put down during the semester is Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick. If I was ever given the opportunity to lead a women's Bible study, I can attest that this is probably the first book with which I would begin. During the conference Elyse spoke at on campus a couple of months ago, she made a sobering statement that I think is very true. In commenting on her experiences traveling and counseling women, she stated that women in this country are crying out for truth. In this self-esteem driven, image-saturated culture, women are in need of hearing the truth in regard to sin and the Savior. I am overwhelmingly reminded of this as I am reading through this particular book. As I am nearing the final chapter, here are just a couple of quotes that have pierced me to the core:

  • Idols aren't just stone statues. No, idols are thoughts, desires, longings, and expectations that we worship in the place of the true God. Idols cause us to ignore the true God in search of what we think we need...I'm not saying that it's wrong to make nice dinners for your husband, exercise properly, or work diligently. If motivated by love of God and others, each of these things can be good. But these actions become sinful when you do them primarily to satisfy your desires instead of to please God. (23, 25)
  • Our wills are doing what they were created to do. It is not the will that is out of synch with the heart when we say we want to worship the Lord and then worship other gods. It is our words that are at variance with our strongest desires and inclinations....It is choosing according to our overriding thoughts and desires, although, because of its sinful bent, our will is more strongly drawn to sin than to holiness....If you wonder why you choose to worship other gods rather than wholeheartedly devote yourself to the Lord you love, examine the thoughts and desires that captivate your heart. That's where you'll find the answer to every sin and failure in your life. Don't be deceived into thinking that you need to develop more willpower. (144-45)
  • The truth about the choices we make is plain. We don't consistently choose the Lord because we don't really desire Him...and we don't really desire Him because we're not convinced that choosing Him will result in our happiness. (150)

These "idols" are going to look and manifest themselves differently depending on the individual; we each have our bents toward particular patterns of sin. However, our sin is common in that it comes down to pride and our desire after the Fall to be ruler of the little kingdoms we try and create for ourselves. There are very specific, difficult sin issues this book by Elyse has applied to in my life, ones that are dealt with and tucked away in the pages of my journal. But there are common questions I can share here, questions posed early on in Idols of the Heart that apply directly to each of the unique hearts the Lord has given us. These questions take the abstract discussion of "idols of the heart" and expose how such idols play out in our daily lives and in the decisions we make:

What do I believe about the source of true happiness in this circumstance?

What do I believe about God in this circumstance?

What do I believe about myself--my rights, my goals, my desires?

What am I trusting in?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Prayer for the Chapmans

Anyone who as ever listened to contemporary Christian music is familiar with the sounds and lyrics of Steven Curtis Chapman. Some who know him also know about his family and their incredible love and support of international adoption. The Chapmans have three biological children and three whom they adopted from overseas. I received a link to the news article detailing the tragic event that has occurred with this dear family: their youngest daughter was killed accidentally when one of the teenage sons was driving down the family's driveway. Such a tragic story, and I have been amazed by how quickly this gut-wrenching news has already spread. Even under the comfort and hope of God's sovereignty there is still a time to weep and mourn. May we be in intercession for the Chapmans today and in the days to follow as they grieve.

The full article can be found at: Chapman Story

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What Am I Really Seeking?

Most people do not know about this since I did not make a huge deal over it, but I had a rather unexpected event occur last Tuesday. I received a phone call from a social services organization here in town whom I had sent my resume to for an employment position they were advertising on their website. The position sounded close to ideal in regard to the description of responsibilities which comprise this counseling-related position. I was eager to apply, not only because I so often fall short of any such positions due to my educational status, but also because of how unlikely I knew it would be to receive a phone call from such a large organization. But, to my complete surprise, a lady from the department which focuses on families and children called me in for an interview. I couldn't possibly turn it down, so I quickly accepted the invitation and then ran downstairs to tell my husband. He began asking me questions about expected hours, pay, and about the actual job description. I began to get really heated and rather than simply answer his questions, all very practical and important ones to consider, I immediately thought to myself, "Can't he just be excited that I've been asked to this interview for a position related at least in part to the field I want to be in? Can't he just let me be happy about the possibility of having this job title on my resume so much sooner than I was anticipating?" He very carefully and patiently (yes, he is more often the patient one in this marriage) explained to me why he was being cautious, and also why he was concerned about me jumping at the chance to work a job for which the hours would be 1:00-9:00pm. Oh, and did I fail to mention that the offices are located right in the heart of downtown? My husband was concerned about me walking to my car after dark in the middle of downtown, but why couldn't he just be excited for me?? If you haven't detected the pattern of thought yet, this conversation I was so frustrated about was focused on one thing: me.

I went ahead and attended the interview on Thursday in order to gain more detailed information and to see if taking such a position would be worth the sacrifice in regard to the hours and pay (equivalent to what I am making at my current job). My feelings upon leaving the interview did not give me anymore confidence that taking the position would be worth having the title on my resume of employment experience, even though she concluded the interview asking me if I would attend a departmental interview a few days later. What I heard in the initial interview ended up sounding more like a glorified receptionist rather than someone who might be able to assist in working with families and children in a more direct, relational manner. I knew that I obviously would not be responsible for actual counseling considering I have neither the educational nor license requirements to enable me to, but I was definitely expecting more than what was described to me. I also asked the lady if there was any chance of a daytime shift opening up in the near future, and she could not guarantee such a possibility. She graciously agreed to hold onto my resume for the future after I emailed her on Sunday afternoon informing her that I could not move forward with the interview process.

So why did all of this happen? Why in the world did I go through the application and interview process only to turn it down before even being offered the position? This event served as a reminder. I spent the majority of the weekend resting and thanking the Lord that He alone knows what is best for me and my husband. I more or less approached him with my tail tucked between my legs, humbled that I was reminded of something that should be so obvious. He has overwhelmingly provided for me with the position I am currently in, and I have never had to worry about how my work and school schedules fit together. Had He not provided my current place of employment when He did, I don't know how I would have afforded seminary or all of the medical bills which started flowing in two years ago. He also reminded me that my value and worth are not defined by my resume. Having employment experience with the title of "counselor" is not worth the new kinds of stress that would have accompanied this job I pursued. Because He knows what is best, and because I clearly do not, who am I to say that He does not have a purpose beyond my imagination for where I am at now? He is the great Provider, Sustainer, and Teacher, all characteristics of which He has continually reminded me of over the past three years. I have no idea what lies ahead career-wise, but I know what His promises are and I have been reminded of what it truly means to be thankful.

I stumbled across Paul Tripp's blog this weekend, and the particular post I read could not have come at a more appropriate time:
Now, admit it, you love you and you have a wonderful plan for your life. Somehow
someway we all are too focused on our own lives. All of us get captured by what
we want, what we feel, and what we have determined we need. Everyone of us is a
dreamer. We've all been given the amazing capacity to envision the future and to
plan toward it. A dream is imagination, coupled with desire and projected into
the future. There are things that you'd love to have as part of your life. There
are things that you'd like to accomplish. There are locations you'd love to
experience. There are relationships you'd like to enjoy. There are situations
you'd like to avoid. Every day you get up and you work toward some kind of
dream. But dreamers don't just dream their dream, they also dream to be
sovereign. . . .You see, you and I are worshippers. This is one of the things
the separates us from the rest of creation. As worshippers we're always living
for something. Something is always laying claim to the affection and rulership
of our hearts. There's always something that commands our dreams. There's
something that we look to to give us identity, meaning and purpose, and that
inner sense of well-being that everyone seeks. Now, Scripture says that there
are only two choices (Romans 1:25). You're living in pursuit of the creation or
the Creator. You're looking for your satisfaction and meaning in the physical
created world, or you're finding it in the Lord. What this means is that there's
a war of dreams that rages in our hearts, and in the middle of the fog of this
war it's so easy to get it wrong. It's so easy to think that because I have my
theology in the right place, because I am biblically literate, and a functioning
member of a good church, that my life is shaped by worship of the Lord. But,
that may not be the case at all. On closer inspection, it may actually be the
case that underneath all of those things is a life that's driven by personal
success, or material things, or the respect of others, or power and control,
etc. I am deeply persuaded that there's a whole lot of idolatrous Christianity
out there. The most dangerous idols of all are those that fit well within the
culture of external Christianity. It's here that Psalm 27 is so helpful and
convicting. What's David's dream for his life? What's his plan? Well, it sounds
so spiritual as to be impractical, but it gets right to the heart of why we were
created in the fist place. . . . David was saying, "I want to be where God
is. I want to do what I was created to do" . . . . David knows who God is:
the only "thing" in the universe that's truly worthy of worship. His dream is
the best dream that you could ever dream. Far from being impractical, this
dream, if lived out at street level, will bring purity and peace to your life.
What's your plan for your life? How close is your plan to the plan God had for
you when he gave you life and breath? Is there, perhaps, something in your plan
that competes for the place that only God should have?

"You have said, 'Seek my face.' My heart says to you, 'Your face, Lord, do I seek.'” ~Psalm 27:4

Friday, May 16, 2008

Favorite Photo(s) Friday!

These are pictures taken from our field trip last week:
(Dr. Stuart Scott, Daniel, Trent, Erin, Kayla, Suzanne, Courtney, Laura, Katye, me, and Emily)

Thanks to Suzanne for the great pictures!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Water of the Word

We received seemingly countless gifts in honor and celebration of our union as husband and wife. Everything from towels to dishes were received at showers and at our doorstep. One little present, however, holds a unique place in our hearts as we walk this journey of marriage together.

One of my husband's best friends, Andrew, gave us a copy of his book Water of the Word. This little book is a compilation of prayers he has written over the course of a few years for his future wife. What began with him praying Scripture for her turned into prayers he wrote down and eventually put into a collection. He first gave it to some friends of his as a wedding gift, and we were more than honored to receive the same. Andrew even referred us to a specific page which included the specific prayer he had in mind for us.

Andrew has spent the past year or more spreading his book to numerous readers, particularly men who are fervently dedicated to praying for their wives and some of whom have direct connections with noted Christian publishers. We recently received word that the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood is now promoting and selling his book on their website! Soon after, the staff interviewed him and the transcript from the interview is posted on the website here.

Water of the Word: Intercession for Her is currently one of the featured products on CBMW's website, and my husband and I are also more than honored to promote his book to anyone who desires to pray for his or her spouse. I have even given a copy of Andrew's book in recent months to a single friend of mine who is committed to prayer for her future spouse. This little book is a treasure, and just one more reason why my husband and I are continually encouraged by Andrew's faithfulness to the Lord.

(One more plug : you can also hear some of Andrew's music for free download at

Monday, May 12, 2008

A pretty incredible "Field Trip"

A few students from my Counseling Observations class, along with a couple of others from other counseling courses, loaded onto a 15-passenger van this past Thursday afternoon for our class "field trip." (There was something kind of fun about referring to our class trip as a field trip like we were all in second grade again.) Dr. Stuart Scott, the primary biblical counseling professor at Southern, took ten of us on a three-hour trip to our first stop, Faith Baptist Church in Lafayette, Indiana. Faith has become widely known for their strong emphasis on biblical counseling and have an entire wing of their main building dedicated to this calling and practice. (You can see the website for Faith Biblical Counseling at This rather large church holds to their conviction that counseling should begin with the church, and this desire is evident in the amount of pastors they have solely dedicated to the task. We were given an overview and brief tour of the church's facilities, complete with a stop at their resource library. The vast majority of books recommended for implementation in biblical counseling, as well as those we have read for our counseling classes, are in stock at Faith's bookstore/library, and you can visit their website to order books, pamphlets addressing specific issues, audio resources, etc. (I was sure to behave myself and only walked out with two books...though I wanted many more!) We were all very encouraged by Faith's mission in reaching out both church members and the surrounding community, and it was encouraging to see how passionate they are about creating a safe environment for biblical counseling at the church rather that only referring church members to the various therapists and psychologists our society has to offer.

After our tour of Faith Baptist Church's main building and community center, we then went over to a beautiful home where we spent the rest of our evening. Vision of Hope is a ministry that has been implemented and just opened its doors this past January. The ministry was birthed from a desire to see real change in the hearts of young people who are in seasons of real crisis, going beyond mere rehabilitation. Vision of Hope is not only a place for rehabilitation/intervention, but one wherein young women are given a picture of God's mercy and the ways in which they have been created in and for Him. Vision of Hope provides residential treatment at the home for young women ages 14-28 who struggle with unplanned pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, or self-harm. The girls stay for a minimum of six months and are assigned a mentor to walk alongside them while they are receiving intense help. The home that Faith has designed for this ministry is more than any of us were anticipating. While taking a tour of the beautiful house, the Vision of Hope director gave us some insight as to why the house was built and decorated as it is. The staff had a desire to create an atmosphere for the girls wherein they not only feel safe while receiving treatment, but also receive a picture of God's undeserved mercy. We have not earned nor deserve any of the rich blessings the Lord has provided, and this is the image the home is intended to portray to the girls. Rather than having an instititutional feel, the house is complete with classic furnishings, fireplaces in both sitting areas, and handmade quilts on each of the beds in the bedrooms. I was teared up when we entered the bedrooms (the ladies on my trip stayed in some of the vacant rooms for the night) and saw the quilts that women from Faith had taken the time to make. Each quilt was complete with a sweet message or Scripture reference in the corner, reminding the girls that there are always church members praying for them. The furniture in each of the bedrooms was also donated, and there is a personalized plaque in each room which gives the residents a message of hope from the families who desired to give so willingly for this cause. We had the opportunity to have breakfast on Friday morning with the five girls who are currently living at Vision of Hope. Although the home can hold up to twenty-four, there are only five at this time. One of the reasons, and a primary way in which we were asked to pray for Vision of Hope, is that there is a shortage of both staff and mentors to be able to minister to more girls. This bit of information was really unfortunate to hear since we could visibly see how powerful this ministry has already been in the few shorts months it has been in operation. However, we were still highly encouraged by the mission of Vision of Hope, and such a ministry demonstrates a clear picture of what church-based, biblical counseling can look like.

Upon leaving Vision of Hope, our group loaded back up into the white van and headed for Brown County (still in Indiana, and I still have no idea what the actual name of the town is). This is where Twelve Stones Ministries is located, a ministry Dr. Scott has mentioned on numerous occasions in our counseling classes. The executive director, Dr. Garrett Higbee, was trained many years ago in clinical psychology only to later have the Lord reveal to Him the true sufficiency of Christ and His Word. Dr. Higbee has always had a passion for family counseling, and this is the way in which the Lord has called him to minister. The vision for Twelve Stones was implemented approximately four years ago, and a spacious and cozy home was built for housing those individuals who would be coming for intervention. Twelve Stones ministers to individuals, married couples, and families, and they cover a wide spectrum of struggles and conditions. Dr. Higbee's experience in psychology is greatly utilized when dealing with those who are on medication or struggling with an apparent psychological condition. Twelve Stones operates under the conviction that "all people need to be reminded of God's love, His promises, and His holiness especially in times of crisis." His constant faithfulness is our only hope in the present and for the future. Individuals come to Twelve Stones for approximately three days, and they are required to bring an advocate with them, an individual who has been approved by his or her pastor. The advocate serves as the primary person holding the counselee accountable, and is also crucial in follow-up after the individual(s) has left Twelve Stones to return home. The staff have gone from thirty counseling cases in a year to now anticipating over one-hundred this year, and they are in the process of buying a new house to allow for even more space to house people coming for help. Not only was I personally encouraged once again by even the environment alone, but also by the way in which Dr. Higbee and his staff are bringing the reliability and hope of Scripture to life. In his own words, Dr. Higbee pointed out that Twelve Stones often receives the cases that local churches refuse: they don't understand the crisis, or want to refer outside of the church, and simply throw their hands up at being too overwhelmed by a particular situation. These are the people that come to Twelve Stones, and so many of those are referred by others who have either heard of Twelve Stones or know the program and the staff personally. The staff continually communicate that they are not in operation to take away from local church fellowship, but rather walk alongside the local church ministering to these sensitive individuals and their issues.

While the chances of having such facilities for counseling at average local churches are slim, there is still so much encouragement and insight to be taken away from visiting such passionate ministries. I was deeply encouraged, particularly at Twelve Stones, not only by how the staff truly desires transformation in the lives of their counselees, but how others see the long-term impact of such an outreach. Both Twelve Stones and Vision of Hope are only housed as they are because of the generous contributions from grants and donors. This is truly remarkable and shows that people see how effective these ministries are, and how needed they are in the Church's mission to a lost and fallen world. We read so much in class about the practice of biblical counseling, learning about the overall goal and philosophy of ministering in this particular way, but to see it lived out in such ways was overwhelming.

Monday, May 05, 2008

4 Months & Another Shindig at the Party Palace

Goodness, how time flies!! We celebrated our four-month anniversary this weekend by digging into our cake topper. The cake itself wasn't actually too bad, a little dry but still edible. (My husband's been slightly bitter since the reception that we didn't really get to eat any of the red velvet cake we were so excited about having.) While the cake itself was good, the sugar flowers and bow on top were...

...not so edible. This rose was in the trashcan about ten seconds after I put it in my mouth. (I was also a little delirious in this picture, so feel free to ignore it. It's the end of the semester and I had a counseling paper due - enough said!) Sunday after was spent at another Party Palace gathering. We had not had one since Easter, so it seemed only appropriate that we have a going away party for dear friends. Dan and Eryn (best man and bridesmaid) are in the small group we have been attending, and they are moving back to the great state of Texas this week. My husband and I have been extremely encouraged by the small group we have been in since visiting this church, and having our Texas friends in the same group has made it all the more enjoyable.

Girls swing while boys play ball! (Anna, Kate, Eryn, M, and Sarah)

A fun game of bocci ball that we watched from the vantage point of the swingset

No BBQ here is complete without a game of cornhole (I still don't know how to play but apparently everyone here does and loves it)

Can't beat good fellowship and good weather!


A family of monkeys! (I think this is all of them - it's hard to tell when they're all in motion!)

Representing Texas well (Joe, Sarah, Eryn, Dan, me and my husband)

I'm not sure they knew that this is how the picture turned out! We are really going to miss them, and truly wish them the best in their move and in this new journey. They have been such dear friends to us, and I have enjoyed getting to know Eryn more. Those of us from Texas have several years of treasured memories together, and my husband and I have enjoyed the season we have had with them here in Louisville. We love you guys!!!