Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanks on This Friday

As I write this, my husband is in our "home office" glued to the computer. He is working hard to finish this last semester well. I have been so encouraged and proud of him this past week as he has demonstrated such diligence in getting everything completed. I know that I would be tempted to settle for mediocre if I was the one faced with such a massive amount of work in the last semester, but not him. He is finishing well, finishing strong, and I could not be more encouraged by how hard he has been working this week.
I am also compelled to give a word of honor regarding something he was able to do this past Sunday. Our church has been given a very unique opportunity in recent months to minister the Gospel. There is a neighboring apartment complex which has recently experienced new residents coming in. Many of these are refugees from other countries: Nepal, Iraq, etc. This particular apartment community is an inexpensive and rather safe place to live, so there has been a recent influx of these individuals and their families coming to live there. Since the complex is practically a stone's throw away from our church building, the opportunity to minister was readily apparent. We have donated clothes especially for those who do not have sufficient coats for a Louisville winter, offered to teach ESL to those seeking help, and found other means of ministering grace to those in need. One significant outlet for ministry we have started is referred to as "Discovering Grace," an hour of teaching and fellowship every Sunday afternoon. Our small groups take turns leading, and each week an individual from that small group is asked to speak on a specific topic related to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My husband was asked to teach this past Sunday, and the task was rather overwhelming: teach on the nature of the Bible and how it came to be in 20 minutes. He studied and prepared for two weeks, grappling with the task of communicating such an in-depth topic to individuals who are mostly unbelievers and still learning English. I also personally knew that he was somewhat nervous since he has not had an opportunity to teach in over four years, so he was both out of practice and somewhat out of his element teaching to an unfamiliar audience. In the end, however, he did better than I could have anticipated! As our small group leader told him afterwards (our small group leader who is also an elder at our church, and professor of New Testament and Greek at Southern), he was warm, winsome, gracious, discerning, and communicated in an understandable way a topic that could otherwise be confusing or overwhelming. From noting amazing facts such as 40 authors contributing over the course of 1500 years to the canon of Scripture, to providing them the page numbers in their paperback New Testaments of where the text was located that they might follow along, I could not have anticipated those 20 minutes being any better. This was the first time I have been able to witness him teach since we have married, and I was more thankful than ever to be his wife. Proclaiming the message of the cross truly is his calling and passion, and I was blessed to see his gifts utilized in such a unique way.

More to come on the topic of school, but we attended our very last classes at Southern Seminary yesterday. I left my evening class with a deep sense of gratitude, reflecting a bit on the past four years, as I walked to my car. These past four years have been so much more than working towards a degree. My dependence on the Lord is deeper, worship is more rich, and I am so much more mindful of the truth and sufficiency of the Word. As a 23-year-old moving 17 hours away from everything I had considered as home, I was oblivious to all the Lord would do between then and now. I am overwhelmed by His grace, provision, hand of mercy, sovereignty over the blessings and the trials, and my heart is filled with gratitude. More reflection to come as graduation draws ever nearer...

And on another note of thanks and sheer excitement, this beautiful face is going to be at our front door in just FOUR DAYS!!

We can't wait to see you, dear friend!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Overwhelmingly Encouraged

This week was marked by a sweet experience, one full of emotion and deep gratitude for the Lord's work. My husband and I decided to attend the chapel service on Thursday morning at Southern's campus, the first either of us have been to in quite some time (I think it's been three years for me, a long time for someone who is still a student there). I took the morning off from work, and enjoyed sleeping in the extra hour or so and getting to slip on a pair of jeans rather than slacks (it's the little things). We excitedly left the house to drive to the school on that beautiful morning in eager anticipation of the chapel service. Why the excitement? After over four years of being at Southern Seminary, why now and why this chapel service? I took the morning off from work, and walked into Alumni Chapel hand-in-hand with my husband, because of who was going to be in attendance and preaching that morning.
For those of you who may not be as familiar with our history, my husband and I met in college. We were pursuing the same degree and attending the same church when we met, and it is in that context that we began our relationship which has brought us to where we are today seven years later. While there are countless reasons we are thankful for that season being behind us, we still look back on those years with thanksgiving and humility for how the Lord was at work in our hearts individually. Those were formative years for me as a daughter of the King, as He used that season to teach me in an intimate way of His sovereignty and the glory reserved for Him alone. I began college as a young woman on the path toward liberal feminism and the mission field (unfortunate that those were paired together at the time), and graduated in 2004 with a completely renewed perspective on who I am in light of His glory and grace - hence the naming of this blog. He had completely rocked my little self-absorbed world, and I closed that chapter with a deeper dependence on and awareness of His grace and mercy.
During this time the Lord was growing my husband as well, maturing and deepening his passion for the glory of Christ in the Gospel to be taught and proclaimed. It was during this time when He was impressing upon my husband the great need for the Gospel truth to be proclaimed in our local churches. He was surrounded by a solid band of brothers, some of whom he is still closely linked with today, and he was personally discipled and mentored by our university pastor at the time. Not only was Matt our pastor at church, but he was also the speaker at Grace Bible Study, a city-wide college Bible study students would flock to in droves every Tuesday night. The Lord used Matt as a key instrument in my husband's life, a significant role in the refining and maturing process as a minister of the Gospel. The level of respect partnered with the prayers for his ministry to be richly blessed run deep for us.
This is the reason we took the time on Thursday morning, time away from work and the end of our last semester, to attend Southern's chapel service. Matt was the guest preacher that morning, and we would not have missed the opportunity to see him. After hearing him preach to this room filled to the brim with seminary students, we were reminded that some things never change. Even when years pass, ministry grows exponentially, and life happens, some things never change. Matt is still a man who, by the gifting and mercy of God, is wholeheartedly passionate about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has no qualms about calling men to genuine repentance and self-examination, and is not afraid to say the things so many shy away from. On Thursday morning, he leaned forward and asked the young men if they are truly called to the glorious and painful ministry of the Word, or if they are liars and using the name of Jesus for their own success in this life. The aim of his message can be summed up in this: when you are being devoured by the lions in your ministry, will your affection for Jesus Christ be enough?
We stayed afterwards to talk with Matt briefly, and my heart was encouraged as he pulled my husband into a bear hug. Life brings change...but some things remain. I was reminded of the bond they shared during our college years, mentor to student, close brothers with a common fire for the Gospel and glory of Christ. It was so good to see him, and he was glad to see us (and see us married now!) in return.
This was our last chapel service to attend at Southern, and as we were exiting the chapel, I could not help but me moved at how appropriate it seemed for Matt to be the guest preacher that day. The man for whom we give the Lord praise in how he has been so instrumental in our lives is the very one who spoke this week at the end of our seminary experience. It was so moving, and I had no words that day for how truly encouraged we were to hear and see him. I was deeply impacted by how the Lord used that Thursday morning experience to say, "Look where I have brought you, how I have cared for and sustained you." Even when we are unaware, He is continually at work through events and the lives of those with whom He intricately and purposefully crosses our paths. I needed that encouragement this week, as this season comes to a close and the realm of the unknown draws ever closer. Praise the Lord for those men and women in our lives who have been so instrumental. No credit to them - all glory and praise to the One who is so articulate to bless us in the exact manner we need.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Co-Hosting a Fab Baby Shower

Disclaimer: I can take no credit for the incredible diaper cake you see above or the amazing food you see below! I simply put the stuff on the table, and added some bright pink additions here and there~

Me and my sweet friend Marcie hosted a baby shower for our friend Sarah from church this past weekend, and was it ever fun, adorable, and I'm pretty sure we all ate a sinful amount of delicious food (thanks to Marcie, of course!)

The game we played (watched) was perhaps the most hilarious one I have seen yet at a baby shower. Marcie had a series of questions to ask Sarah, and after she answered, we then listened to her husband's pre-recorded answers on the laptop. Anything from "What will the color of the baby's very first poop be?" to "Will you still love Molly even if she ends up going to OU for college?" Needless to say, good times and lots of laughs were had~

If anyone has known me for any length of time, they know that I am extremely sentimental. I would rather have a totally mismatched room of trinkets that hold some significant (or random) value or memory than to go order things from a department store that all match perfectly. It's just the way I'm built, and I'm pretty sure I will always be that way (hence the reason there is one of my grandmother's napkin holders sitting on the shelf in my closet, haha). Well, baby showers for women at Grace are the perfect opportunity for my sentimental waterworks to be tapped! Sarah received two homemade hats (Molly is going to be a little fashionista right away!), and our pastor's wife made an absolutely beautiful quilt. While I was by no means a blubbering mess, I did get teary-eyed as I took pictures of Sarah with her precious, priceless gifts~

We had such a sweet and fun time on Saturday, and it truly was an honor to be able to bless the mommy-to-be.
I have really been trying to savor such times of fellowship and opportunities to bless others, as the seminary season is coming to a close. While my husband and I may still be in limbo for an undetermined period of time, I can sense that things are quickly beginning to change. Couples and families from church are making plans to move away, we are receiving routine graduation reminders, and things are just...changing. This past Saturday was not only a sweet celebration with wonderful women, but it was also a time of reflection on how the Lord has been so gracious in allowing me to meet these ladies during this season. While we may not all be the absolute closest and best of friends, I love this season he has put each of us in. There is such a kindred spirit among us, a bond of friendship that runs deep, a hand always ready to serve one another, and an encouraging word to be shared. No matter where we all go in the months and years ahead, I will always look back on this season, and on knowing these precious women, with gratitude~