Monday, June 22, 2009

Meet Cousin Sam!

If you can't get your own adorable, huggable, snuggable new puppy, then just convince one of your closest friends to get one so that you can live vicariously through him! Our friend Brian has been patiently waiting and looking for just the right puppy for quite some time now. He has always loved coming to our place to play with Nali and Maia, and they absolutely adore their "uncle." In case you missed this post, I was beside myself when he called to tell us that he was getting one of the Border Collie puppies.
We accompanied him for the drive down to Elizabethtown to pick her up, and our hearts just melted as soon as we saw and interacted with her. The rest of the afternoon was spent taking her to the vet, then to the pet store for goodies, and then dropping them off at Brian's place. He reminded me of how I was the day we brought Nali home - this daze of disbelief that he is now fully responsible for this little brown-eyed puppy, and completely happy with the decision he made. He has named her Samantha ("Sam"), and we have already gotten to puppysit her once since Saturday. My big girl, Nali, was the most wonderful puppy I could have asked for, and I hope and already anticipate that Brian is going to have the same experience with little Sam!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Reflecting on the Weekend

Some scenes from my mom's lakehouse:

Some scenes from my grandfather's farm:

My mom and I:

Me and my classy grandfather:

My big brother and I:

To be perfectly honest, I have been overwhelmed by the inquiries from friends since my return on Tuesday. I mean, I knew close friends were aware of my trip to Texas and why I was going, but I guess I was oblivious to just how many were mindful and prayed fervently while I was there. My heart is filled with thankfulness when I think of those whom I know have interceded for so long now...
After spending a couple of days resting and processing the events of my trip, I can say that my time with family was truly good. I enjoyed the brief time I had with my mom, grandfather, and brother, and I felt as if this visit was different than any other for a number of reasons. For one thing, I felt completely different going down as a married woman. The Lord has been at work in my heart, and I think a new level of communication and honesty was reached. I was thrown off guard initially at just how open and honest I was able to be with them, and by such openness being returned. I am thankful for the sweet time spent with my mom and for how the Lord has graced me with the ability to encourage her in ways I would have never anticipated.
The climax of the trip occurred on Monday night when my brother and I sat talking over tea in my grandfather's kitchen for almost four hours. I cannot recall a time when we were able to have such an open conversation, largely due to how clear-minded he is after the events of the past two months. We were able to dialogue about his personal struggles, what the real problems might be, his expectations of what lies ahead for the next two years, and ultimately what he believes about God's work in the world and through Christ. There was so much to unpack with him considering we have never had such a conversation, so I had to spend time processing and discerning whether or not the hours were fruitful. After much reflection, I do feel that we made good headway. I feel that I was able to learn more about him, rather than listening to hearsay from others, and that I can continue conversing openly with him about these issues. The night ended with me giving him a paperback copy of the ESV Bible, and a little booklet from Desiring God entitled "For Your Joy." I initially hesitated to give him the booklet, but after our conversation, I felt it appropriate to give him this concise resource which deals with questions about God's character and this fallen world in which we live.
During the flight home on Tuesday, I began trying to process all of the time and conversations shared. One of my biggest struggles in recent years has been dealing with myself and the lack of confidence I had around my family during adolescence. My prayer concern regarding idle time was directly related to this struggle. I have often beaten myself up over years that just felt wasted. The Lord is so good, and not only did He show me that the time was not wasted, but reminded me of the simple truth that He is strong where we are weak. His Spirit was so evident and sweet during my visit, and I teared up while listening to a familiar song on the flight home:
I am small and I speak when I'm spoken to
But I am willing to risk it all
I say Your name, just Your name and I'm ready to jump
Even ready to fall...
Why did I take this vow of compromise?
Why did I try to keep it all inside?
So long status quo, I think I just let go
You make me want to be brave
The way it always was is no longer good enough
You make me want to be brave
(N. Nordeman)
As mentioned already, I am overwhelmed with thanks for those whom I know have been faithfully praying. Please continue! No one knows what lies ahead in the next couple of years, but we can be thankful for what the Lord has done thus far, and trust that He is faithful to complete the work He began!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Time for Prayer and Preparation

"None are so lost whom God is not powerful to save."

My husband and I prayed together last night, and the quote above is something he said that was so profound and declares the truth I cling to in preparation for the coming weekend. I can hardly believe that only days remain now before I travel to visit family and hopefully come face-to-face with my brother. For those of you who read my blog frequently, I am going to take this week as a break from the blogosphere. While I am away, there are some aspects of this fast-approaching trip for which you can be praying:
  • "Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant..." (2 Corinthians 3:4-6) - I ultimately have nothing to fear if the Lord ordains that I am able to talk with my brother. The wisdom and power for the Gospel to be effectively communicated are not things I can conjure up from within myself. I ultimately have nothing to offer but the hope of the Gospel. Pray that I will continually be mindful of my utter weakness, and the Lord's redeeming power and grace of which I am an undeserved recipient and witness.
  • My brother was very angry when he found out that I am coming down to see him. He still sees me as his kid sister whom he is trying to hide himself from, ashamed and embarrassed of who he is. Oh, that this would be an opportunity for me to show unanticipated compassion and grace toward him, speaking the truth boldly while also pointing out the reality that he has much more to be concerned with than my opinion of him.
  • Pray for the brokenness in my family. Pray that the fog of guilt, resentment, wrongs committed, and mistakes made might be swept aside. My hope is that my time there will not feel idle, but truly fruitful. May the Lord give me clarity in speaking the truth to those in my family who have tended to place me on a moral pedestal, and instead may they see Christ's redemptive and transforming work.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Song for Sunday - How Sweet the Name

1. How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear!
It soothes his sorrow, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.
2. It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
'Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary, rest.
3. Dear Name, the rock on which I build,
My shield and hiding place,
My never failing treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace!
4. By Thee, my prayers acceptance gain,
Although with sin defiled;
Satan accuses me in vain,
And I am owned a child.
5. Jesus, my Shepherd, Brother, Friend,
My Prophet, Priest, and King,
My Lord, my life, my way, my end,
Accept the praise I bring.
6. Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I'll praise Thee as I ought.
7. 'Til then I would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath,
And may the music of Thy name
Refresh my soul in death.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Favorite Photo(s) Friday?

Have you ever come across pictures of yourself saved on a computer at work that you never even knew existed?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Oh softy that I am...

This is seriously killing me... I walked into work this morning, and as usual went to the kitchen to put my food in the fridge. Right there in front of my face on the door was an ad - "Border Collie Puppies for Sale - $175." My jaw dropped, and I marched straight to the desk of the woman responsible for such personal torture and said, "You know you're killing me, right?" and she smiled and handed a copy of the ad to me. With an evil little sparkle in her eye she told me to be sure and show it to my husband.
For those of you who don't me, there are a few factors that play into this morning of such angst:
1) I am a hopeless softy when it comes to puppies, particularly when it comes to Shelties, Collies, Border Collies, and others that fall into the herding group category. There is a reason my husband served as my escort back in college when I was looking for my very first puppy. He was the voice of reason in my head, and thankfully so since I really did find the perfect puppy, my beloved Nali Collie.
2) My husband and I really do love Border Collies. He had one growing up whose name was Bruce, and my family had Furrball until I was in late elementary school. Nali is the closest we have come since she is Collie/Border Collie mix, and we have always said that we are going to get a Border Collie when we are some place more permanent. Hence, now is clearly not the time...
3) The fact that the puppies are full Border Collie and just $175 are causing all rationale to escape my brain.
So, with tears in the corners of my eyes, I have been reading my husband's text messages reminding me of all the many reasons why we truly cannot get a third dog right now. We live in an apartment complex, there are added expenses to consider at a time when we are trying to simply survive these last few months of seminary, and the list goes on. I am only half-joking when I say this is really killing me, and I really hope my husband's able to focus on his class at school this morning after me sending him word of these precious pups...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

"The Shocking Thing About Christian Marriage"

Have you ever attended a wedding ceremony, and for a moment felt as if you were tasting and seeing a brief glimpse of heaven? I remember it so clearly at my own wedding - the experience of walking down the aisle with my groom in view, clothed in my white, spotless gown, and taking exceeding comfort in knowing that my husband chose me in spite of all my mistakes and impurities. For that moment in time, we beheld a picture of Christ calling His Bride to Himself.
A similar picture was seen this past weekend at the wedding celebration of a dear friend. My sweet friend Anna, whom I met at our previous church as well as at seminary, joined with her husband in marriage on Saturday afternoon, and it truly was a joyous celebration. Anna is one of those rare individuals with whom you come in contact with and are immediately struck by her unashamed and infectious joy. She waited patiently for the Lord's timing in bringing her husband into her life, and He blessed her faithfulness abundantly above all she could have imagined as He does with all who trust in His sovereign plan! The buzz of anticipation filled the sanctuary as we entered and found our seats amongst the other excited guests. Then...the moment came... As the musicians began playing the familiar hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness," Anna entered the room with her father singing along with the music. Unable to contain such overwhelming joy, all who were there spontaneously joined the bride and groom in singing praise to the Father for such a glorious union and celebration. My eyes welled up at such a beautiful picture.
One of the main elements that my husband and I miss the most from our previous church is the preaching pastor. We were torn with the thought of parting with such a powerful, sensitive, effective, humble proclaimer of the Truth. He is perhaps one of the best preachers either of us has ever encountered, and we were reminded of why during this ceremony. As is his custom, he prepared a sermon for the occasion, this one entitled "The Shocking Thing About Christian Marriage." He prefaced the one thing by laying out for the congregation what the shocking thing is not. The shocking thing about Christian marriage is not that wives are to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord, although that has historically been a radical concept in almost every culture one encounters. In almost every culture, women are either hungry for independence, or they are subject to a society of oppression. The other thing that is not the shocking thing about Christian marriage is that husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her. How much easier would it have been if Scripture simply instructed men to lead their wives, rather than throwing in the seemingly impossible task of loving in a sacrificial manner? With that said, if the shocking reality of marriage is not what we are instructed to do as husbands and wives in Paul's letter to the Ephesians, what is the shocking thing? Here it is:

"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in
which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince
of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of
disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passions of
our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind. . . (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave
himself up for her
, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor,
without spot or
or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5:25-27)

Ponder that for a moment... Every single one of us, by nature, deep within, at the very core of our being, at some point were dead. But God in His infinite mercy, for those whom He chose before time began, sent Christ for our salvation and so that He might call us His Bride. When that reality takes hold of you, when He has pulled you from the pit and called you spotless and undefiled, submission and sacrificial love won't seem so shocking. One also has to wonder if, amongst those couples who struggle with such issues, there is a deeper connection with having lost sight of the fundamental, shocking reality of what God has done for us in Christ. He actually orchestrated marriage in such a way that we who were dead are intended to reflect the very relationship His Son has with the Church!
For this reason, I found it particularly fitting that all present at this joyous wedding ceremony on Saturday were invited to join together in singing,
There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains...
The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away...
Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood shall never lose its power;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved to sin no more...
E'er since, by faith, I saw the stream thy flowing wounds supply;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die...