Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snapshots from Christmas Day

Being the big kid that I am, I was awake by 4:30am Christmas morning (partly due to a snoring dog on the floor next to our bed), but forced myself to stay in bed until 6:00am. My husband and I went downstairs and thoroughly enjoyed the breakfast he prepared before we dove into our stockings and presents~

Maia's annual jingle bells ~ She has surprisingly come to enjoy wearing the collar, and we're convinced that she likes hearing herself jingle down the hallway and up and down the stairs~

The surprise gift my dad sent to my husband ~ the gift he's wanted since he was a little boy!

When we purchased our Blu-Ray player a few weeks ago, I had just one requirement: "Beauty and the Beast" under the tree on Christmas morning, and I got it!

The Sheltie posing with her momma's annual Sheltie calendar~

Nali was beside herself (we have the video to prove it!) when we placed her new bed in the floor, and that's pretty much where she stayed the rest of the day. I challenge anyone who would argue that our dog doesn't know what Christmas is~

Christmas lunch with friends at our lead pastor's house~

A truly sweet time with our church family!

This silly girl makes us all smile!

My husband made a new friend while us ladies were cleaning up the kitchen after dinner~

Singing some Gettys music after dinner~

I'm not the only one with the family tradition of all the ladies gathering in the kitchen to cleanup after the big meal!

Oh, how I love these sweet friends!
We were feeling pretty homesick leading up to Christmas, especially since we wouldn't be seeing our family during the holidays for really the first time ever. Being asked to spend Christmas with friends from church ended up being a real treat, and made us so thankful for our "family" here in Louisville.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lyrics & Reflection on Light Shining out of Darkness

Labor of Love
(from Andrew Peterson's "Behold the Lamb of God")
It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town
And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold
It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
Noble Joseph at her side
Calloused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night
So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the Maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move
It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
As the Christmas season and week have so suddenly crept up on me, I'm thankful for the moments I've been afforded when I can pause and reflect. The image I've had in my head this season has been that of light shining out of the darkness, and how that night in a cold cave in Bethlehem changed the world forever. I reflect on how very harsh that night must have been: no sterile and safe hospital, no friends surrounding them in the midst of their fear, no certainty of where they would go from there...just a simple man and woman bringing this baby into the world, a baby whose birth would change the course of human history. A baby who would go on to shatter the sting and victory of death. It's hard to wrap our minds around at times, but then there are moments when we get a glimpse of the personal nature of that night. This has been a difficult year for me and my husband, and I am brought to a place of peace and rest and hope when I think on Jesus' birth. On the darkest of days, there is the hope of light breaking through the darkness. I read the familiar account of Christ's birth in Scripture, wondering if this is how Mary and Joseph felt. At the end of that dark night, they were given the gift of life in the birth of their baby, and that baby was the Giver of life Himself. What a miracle - "...the baby in her womb, He was the Maker of the moon, He was the Author of the faith that could make the mountains move."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Favorite Photo(s) Friday ~ A Night with the Gettys

(Last three photos courtesy of the Gettys' FB fan page)
The concert we attended last night was such a treat. The last time we saw Keith and Kristyn Getty in concert was a couple of years ago when they released their album "Awaken the Dawn," and I was ecstatic that they were returning to Louisville for a Christmas concert. While we weren't able to get better pictures, I did manage to meet Kristyn afterwards. She signed the songbook I purchased, and I was able to share with her (very) briefly why I have been so encouraged by their music these past few years. One of the wonderful blessings I have experienced since being in Louisville has been exposure to such rich worship music. I was telling her in our brief minutes together that as a woman who has also been compelled to lead others in corporate worship for many years, I often felt like something was missing from so much of the contemporary music we hear in churches today. After being introduced to such worship groups as the Gettys, worship leaders who share a love for timeless hymns and a commitment to music saturated with the truths of Scripture, I realized what I had often sensed was lacking. There is such a need for music in our churches to point us to the Savior - to our need of the Savior, and I have been encouraged in a very personal way by the music of Keith and Kristyn Getty. Here is just a sample of some of the music they have written (the song they left us with at the close of the concert):

Celtic Christmas Blessing
Now may the fragrance of His peace

Soar through your heart like the dove released

Hide in His wings oh weary, distant soul

He'll guide your spirit home
And may His love poured from on high

Flow to the depths of your deepest sigh

Oh come and drink from the only living stream

And on His shoulder lean
And may the hope that will not deceive

Through every pain bring eternal ease

There is no night that can steal the promises

His coming brings to us
So may His joy rush over you

Delight in the path He has called you to

May all your steps walk in Heaven's endless light

Beyond this Christmas night

Friday, October 29, 2010

Favorite Photo Friday ~ The 7-Year-Old Puppy

This is how I found my puppy at the end of her 7th birthday last night. Having a birthday is hard work! Goodness, I love this dog...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Favorite Photo Friday!

In honor of the fall season and good friends:
"Besides the rarity of finding someone you instantly click with, it just takes a while to get comfortable. It takes a while to be able to do nothing together, to not feel like you have to entertain. There's something re-energizing about connecting with friends who have known you for several falls.I knew this was my favorite season for a reason."
(Borrowed with permission from Tulips & Avocados)

I owe an actual post to the wonderful weekend I spent with my dearest friend two weeks ago, but wanted to share this sweet picture for now. I treasure her so much, and am thrilled to see her as a new mommy in just over two months from now!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Reflections on "Counting Stars"

(I've had one of those months wherein I have come to this blog time after time wondering what to write about next. Between visiting a friend, fighting seasonal sickness, and continuing to seek peace and rest during this season of uncertainty, I have had ideas but nothing that has resulted in a coherent post. I still have several saved drafts just waiting for the click of the "Publish" button, but I thought this would be a good place to begin.)

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a concert with some of my closest friends from church. Not only were we all feeling the need for some getaway girl time, but there was a free Andrew Peterson concert being held at a church in Lexington. We each eagerly anticipated the road trip over, and the day away did not disappoint. Already filled to the brim with fun car conversation and Mexican food, we found our seats in the church sanctuary. As the stage was being set and those friends already more familiar with his music were chatting excitedly with each other, I silently prayed that my heart would be encouraged and refreshed by the music we were about to hear. I felt like my heart was in need of such refreshing, the kind that oftentimes only music can so uniquely bring. I knew this was going to be a sweet and memorable evening when Andrew began with this song:

If you’ll step inside this great glass elevator
It’ll take us up above the city lights
Where the planet curves away to the equator
I wanna show you something fine
You can see the roads that we all traveled just to come here
A million minuscule decisions intertwined
Why they brought us to this moment isn’t clear
But that’s all right, we’ve got all night
Could it be that the many roads you took to get here
Were just for me to tell this story and for you to hear this song
And your many hopes, and your many fears
Were meant to bring you here all along
So If you’ll trust me with your time I’ll spend it wisely
I will sing to you with all I have to give
If you traveled all this way, then I will do my best to play
My biggest hits (Don’t I wish)
And if you’ll lend to me your ear I’ll sing ‘em pretty
I will never, ever sing ‘em out of tune
And I will not forget the words, of any chorus, bridge, or verse I promise you
‘Cause it could be that the many roads you took to get here
Were just for me to tell this story, and for you to hear this song
And your many hopes, and your many fears
Were meant to bring you here all along
We've got Benjamin to play that grand piano
If we’re lucky it’s a little out of tune
We've got Andy on the guitar ‘cause I promised him
Some Texas barbecue (and disc golf too)
How I love to watch you listen to the music
‘Cause you sing to me a music of your own
As I cast out all these lines, so afraid that I will find I am alone, all alone
Could it be that the many roads I took to get here
Were just for you to tell this story, and for me to hear this song
And my many hopes, and my many fears
Were meant to bring me here all along
An indicator of truly good music is when you find yourself pondering the lyrics days later, reflecting on the weight of the message. This first song is such an example: here you have this simple, catchy song welcoming and thanking those of us in attendance, but there is so much more to what Andrew was trying to get across to us; the seemingly smallest details of our lives - events, hopes, conversations, fears - are part of the journey the Lord already intended for us. How comforting and encouraging that is to hear from a fellow brother on this journey of faith. I remember feeling this way during a concert I attended at my college church back in 2003; I walked in thirsting for encouragement, and came away pondering the music days and weeks and months later (Derek Webb's She Must and Shall Go Free tour). Little did I know that night back in 2003 that I was sitting next to my future husband, and my true feelings for him were confirmed during that concert... How little we often know about what God has in mind for us, in the most mundane and significant events. What we do know is that He will meet us in those moments when our need is great. While traveling to that Andrew Peterson concert weeks ago now, I knew my heart was in need of the kind of encouragement I often receive from music. The Lord knew my desire, and was kind to meet me there~

Friday, September 17, 2010

Favorite Photo(s) Friday!

We had a sweet gathering on Tuesday night, a first for the women's ministry at our new church home: Ladies Dessert Night!

I have been so thankful for this church merger, not only for all of the potential my husband and I see, but because the Lord has continually used this as a means to remind me of the wonderful women in my life. Tuesday night was especially sweet as it was such a picture of Titus 2 - older women encouraging and teaching the young. We heard so many wonderful stories from these women who have been wives and mothers, and who have lived in this neighborhood their entire lives. One lady told us of being five years old when her family joined the church, that all of her children were married at Franklin, and that she now lives in the house her father built in the 1930s. Another woman told us of her nine children (one girl and eight boys!), and how she and her husband were compelled to take in a child from the neighborhood who had lost his family. So much history, so much to take in and from which we can learn so much! I pray that such fellowship continues to grow in the days and months and years to come!

Friday, September 10, 2010

~A Really Kindred Spirit~

"Anne tipped the vase of apple blossoms near enough to bestow a soft kiss on a pink-cupped bud, and then studied diligently for some moments longer.
'Marilla,' she demanded presently, 'do you think that I shall ever have a bosom friend in Avonlea?'
'A--a what kind of friend?'
'A bosom friend--an intimate friend, you know--a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I've dreamed of meeting her all my life. I never really supposed I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have come true all at once that perhaps this one will, too. Do you think it's possible?'"
~L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
Today is my very best friend's 28th birthday, and I find that I am missing her terribly. We talked on the phone just two days ago during our normal time: she's commuting home from work, I am just pulling into a parking spot after my own long day, and we fill up the all of the time we're given right up until it's time to start cooking dinner. Even with the frequent phone calls, there are just certain days and weeks when I feel the distance more than others. We haven't actually seen each other face to face since January 5, 2008, but the hope is to remedy that in October when I hopefully visit her!
This past Sunday, mine and my husband's small group got together even though our leaders were out of town. Since this was a different gathering than normal, the couple who volunteered to lead decided to take a different slant on our time together. The exercise was for us to each tell the rest of the small group about ourselves, as if we were meeting each other for the first time. They asked us to tell everyone about sixty seconds. Well, you can guess that sixty seconds doesn't exactly allow for much time to delve into our life stories (especially for those who tend towards being long-winded...*ahem*, which ended up being part of their purpose in having us share. After everyone in the room had spoken, our friends then asked us to switch gears and in four minutes share the "what I didn't tell you" about ourselves. Wow. I don't know when I have heard our small group be so candid in this setting, and my husband and I found ourselves both encouraged and burdened by what we heard. We love our small group dearly, have grown to love them even more in recent months, but this was the first time I felt like I saw the "true self" behind the person. I have gotten to know a couple of women on a personal level as dear friends, but this was a definite first in the context of our small group gatherings.
One of the personal things I mentioned was the loneliness I have been dealing with recently. Between the good days of patience and trust, and those when I find myself "fighting for joy," I have at times paused and found myself feeling very alone. Not having anything to do with my husband (my best best best friend), I have moments when I long for a friend whom I can call at a moments' notice for coffee and conversation. After our small group finished sharing, we divided up the men and women to spend more time praying for one another. As I was praying with the wonderful women around me, my heart was filled with thankfulness. In that moment, the Lord showed me just how much He has blessed us with such an honest, intimate group of friends.
The dear friend who prayed for me during this closing time mentioned something that brought tears to my eyes. During her prayer over me, she asked the Lord to bless me with a "bosum friend, just like Anne and Diana were bosum friends, really kindred spirits." Upon mention of one of the most cherished novels in my book collection, I began thinking on the precious friendships the Lord has provided. I often refer to my best friend as "my kindred spirit," pulling the reference from our mutual affection for the Anne series. Such friends are rare, and I personally had the added blessing of her being part of the closeknit group of friends I have had since early adolescence. Because of how early on these bonds developed, I feel at times as if I have forgotten how to make such friends. But then...were any of these friendships formed out of my own doing, my own insistence at forcing a relationship that had not existed previously? When I look back on such friendships, and the ones that are developing in my life now, I can see such evidence that the Lord knits us together in more natural circumstances. He uses unanticipated events, random conversations, seemingly common interactions, and other means to cross our paths and knit us together.
Some friends have come and gone, some friendships have yet to be formed, but one thing I know; my best friend is irreplaceable. The miles have separated us for many years, but even distance cannot separate a friendship the Lord has so uniquely woven together.
Dear friend ~ I love you, I am thankful for you, I wish I could be there to celebrate with you. I am thrilled to witness the Lord's hand in your life as He continues to work in you, maturing you and drawing you closer in intimacy and dependence on Him. I know you're nervous and there is so much uncertainty ahead, but I have no doubt in my mind that you will be a wonderful mother. I know you will be wonderful because you know that your strength and ability only come by God's grace. I hope you have a sweet and memorable 28th birthday, and I love you "to infinity and beyond!"

Thursday, August 26, 2010

~Our Source of JOY~

“It is a source of joy to the Christian, that the Crucified is now the glorified—that He rose triumphant from the grave, and ascended into glory—that he is seated at God’s right hand, to wield the scepter of the universe, and to appear as the High Priest and Intercessor of His people.
Oh! this thought has been a well-spring of joy to the believer. It has nerved his faith in many a hard fight—it has imparted sweetness to many a bitter draught.
Jesus within the veil—the changeless Friend—the sympathizing Brother—the undying, ever-living Head—who has promised to His people, all-sufficient grace now, and certain, endless glory hereafter.”
~J. MacDuff, The Throne of Grace

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A "Jeremiah Moment"

(I considered labeling this a "Lamentations moment", but I didn't want to give people the idea that this is a season of lamenting, of weeping and wailing and groaning. By no means... However, I would like to consider this a "Jeremiah moment" since he was the one who possibly authored the book from whence the reference comes.)

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him.
~Lamentations 3:24-25
This third chapter of Lamentations has become my food the past two weeks, as I have continually come back to the precious reminder of how good it is to wait on the Lord. One might wonder how in the world waiting can be a good thing, how our tendency towards impatience and anxiety can be a good thing, but that's just it: we are brought into seasons of waiting in order that we might draw closer and wait upon Him.
The Lord has also been good to remind me of the sweet fellowship my husband and I are in at our church, of the sweet friends He has provided as a means of His grace. Upon arriving at work one morning last week, I read an email from one such dear friend. She wrote to me that morning for the simple purpose of letting me know that she is praying for me and my husband, and had read a devotional that brought us to mind:
"Waiting is much more difficult than walking. Waiting requires patience, and patience is a rare virtue. It is fine to know that God builds hudges around His people - when the hedge is looked at from the viewpoint of protection. But when the hedge is kept around one until it grows so high that he cannot see over the top, and wonders whether he is ever to get out of the little sphere of influence and service in which he is pent up, it is hard for him sometimes to understand why he may not have a larger environment - hard for him to 'brighten the corner' where he is. But God has a purpose in all HIS holdups. 'The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord'" reads Psalm 37:23.

When we learn to wait for our Lord's lead in everything, we shall know the strength that finds its climax in an even, steady walk. Many of us are lacking in the strength we so covet. But God gives full power for every task He appoints. Waiting, holding oneself true to His lead - this is the secret of strength. And anything that falls out of the line of obedience is a waste of time and strength. Watch for His leading.

Must life be a failure for one compelled to stand still in enforced inaction and see the great throbbing tides of life go by? No; victory is then to be gotten by standing still, by quiet waiting. It is a thousand times harder to do this than it was in the active days to rush on in the columns of stirring life. It requires a grander heroism to stand and wait and not lose heart and not lose hope, to submit to the will of God, to give up work and honors to others, to be quiet, confident and rejoicing, while and happy, busy multitude go on and away. It is the grandest life 'having done all, to stand.'" (Author Unknown)
After this sweet expression of encouragement, I was drawn yet again to Jeremiah's words in Lamentations, and actually thanked the Lord that He has us in a season of waiting:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (3:22-23)
If you are in a season of waiting, take heart and reflect on things for which you have much reason to praise. You may not be able to see over the hedge surrounding you, but He sees and knows, is leading and has His plan in mind for your future. (And I say this not just to anyone who might be reading, but over and over again to myself!)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thoughts for Thursday ~ "I've Come to Realize..."

I was originally a little annoyed that this post was taking me so long to complete (roughly five days), but upon finishing I am glad I took my time. This was a good exercise for me personally, as each element challenged me and to pause and examine my heart. Thanks to PandaMom for passing it along~


I've come to realize that my body is...a purposeful design by a wonderful Creator. On my worst days, I see the flaws that diet, exercise and makeup can’t fix. I see the flaws that would cost thousands of dollars to fix, and even then the fix wouldn’t be a guarantee. On my good days, I walk into the bathroom and meditate on the passage my husband taped to the mirror as a reminder of the truth:
For you formed my inward parts;you knitted me together in my mother's womb.I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.Wonderful are your works;my soul knows it very well.My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,intricately woven in the depths of the earth.Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them,the days that were formed for me,when as yet there was none of them. ~Psalm 139:13-16

I've come to realize that my job is...a greater provision than I could have anticipated five years ago. Not only am I thankful for the company I work for, but the stability of my job has been sufficient for my husband and I to finish seminary and support us during this season of church searching and waiting. I’ve also personally grown in ways that were needed but definitely unexpected!

I've come to realize that I need nothing more in life than...Christ’s death and resurrection!
I will not boast in anything, No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom

I've come to realize that I've lost my mind...when I walk around the grocery store only seeing the things that truly matter – chocolate, donuts, candy, cookies, etc. (and then go home crying because I didn’t buy anything that constitutes an actual meal), when I stop myself just before pouring coffee into my cereal bowl, when I wear mismatched shoes to work (thankfully this one hasn’t happened in awhile), when I grab a spoon to eat a salad with…it all sounds at least slightly off kilter, right? Well, these things seem to only occur within the timeframe of a particular week each month, so I just blame my lost mind on Eve...

I've come to realize I hate...opinions voiced with a total lack of perspective. I myself am guilty of this at times, and it can be so hurtful and uncharitable. Even when people aren’t necessarily meaning to hurt another person, we could all from time to time do well to stop, take a step back, and think of a particular issue within the framework of a larger lens. I’ve come to realize that oftentimes when I am complaining, or I overhear someone else griping, it comes down to a lack of perspective on the circumstances at hand (and by extension, a lack of grace and humility)~

I've come to realize that money is...not an evil in and of itself. As a post-seminary wife, it has taken many hard lessons for me to realize that money is not my enemy. God is always providing in the ways He deems best for us, and I am responsible for my personal stewardship of what He has given. Money is not the issue; my heart is the issue. I am thankful the Lord has been at work on me in this area, and I know that what matters most is that my husband and I are being as wise as we can with what we have been given~

I've come to realize that I'll always husband and I driving around our college town in his Ford Mustang with the windows rolled down listening to music during our first year dating - the day I looked into the cardboard box in a W@lm@rt parking lot to find the cutest puppy ever created - my dad and I dancing around the house and singing at the top of our lungs to classic rock when I was a kid - my brother and I dancing around the house and singing at the top of our lungs to Disney music when I was a kid - embarrassing my friends in public as often as the occasion allowed - being introduced to the world of scrapbooking by PandaMom and Funderstorm - the day I found out I was going to be an aunt - my mom and I reading books together before going to bed - going to Israel at the age of 15 - going to East Asia my junior year of college (and falling in the middle of a classroom full of students during that trip!) - going to Istanbul my senior year of college - receiving those first emails from then-boyfriend-now-husband during the Istanbul trip - taking part in all of my dearest friends’ wedding celebrations - being at the airport the day the Panda Family came home with Panda Girl - the day I packed up and moved to Louisville - picking up the most precious Sheltie puppy I’ve ever seen from the airport - the car accident that ruined my trusty ‘Jack Black’ - receiving the phone call confirming the diagnosis of Tuberous Sclerosis after finding a small tuber on my brain - sitting in my first livingroom in Louisville with then-boyfriend-now-husband and crying at the weight of what Tuberous Sclerosis meant for our future - the first time he said ‘I love you’ - reading the letter he had handwritten to me the night he asked me to be his wife - the doors of the sanctuary opening and walking down the aisle toward my groom as the tune of ‘Amazing Grace’ filled the air - our very first home together as husband and wife~

I've come to realize that my sibling...has come a long way. We are all so proud of all the progress he’s made this past year, and both eager and somewhat nervous to see how things go come December. For now, we pray, hope, and continue to encourage!

I've come to realize my a wonderful friend. We had some pretty rocky years while I was growing up, but by God’s grace that is no longer how our relationship is defined. We are veeeery different from one another in some ways, but I have grown to appreciate who she is as a person, and the wisdom and motherly advice she provides. My mom is also my favorite person to relax with – just me and her sitting on the back porch drinking coffee~

I've come to realize my sacrificial and always seeking the well-being of others. I didn’t appreciate that as much as I should have until my seminary years and getting married, but both my husband and I see the incredible source of support he is and we’re both so thankful! (I also love it when he comes to visit us, and every night he’s with us I leave him and my husband downstairs while they have conversations into the wee hours of the night – that just makes my heart happy.)

I've come to realize my cell a wealth of tools and quick access to FB and maps and information galore! I really do try not obsessing over it, reacting every time I hear the chime of an incoming email or text, but my husband has informed me that I respond to the chimes even in my sleep!

I've come to realize when I woke up this morning...I should have woken up sooner, but that’s the story of my life during the work week. I tell myself I’m going to get up at a certain time, but consistently stay in bed for another 30 minutes, and then I feel that much more rushed getting out the door! You’d think I would learn by now…

I've come to realize last night...(night before last now) was a sweet reminder of how thankful I am for our friends here in Louisville. We had an extremely relaxing and enjoyable evening just hanging out with our Tuesday night crew, watching a movie, eating desserts, drinking coffee, and some of us ladies crocheting. Yes, I’m truly thankful for them, and even moreso during this particular season of our lives~

I've come to realize right now I'm thinking about...the blanket I’m attempting to crochet, my very first crocheting project! It definitely doesn’t come as naturally to me as scrapbooking did, but I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of it! I think certain crafts and hobbies are dying arts which deserve to be revived~

I've come to realize today...came a tad too quickly for my sleepy head, but I’m enjoying it for what it is, and am SO thankful for the lack of humidity outside! I really do try to enjoy long as it’s warm and breezy outside~

I've come to realize tonight...will likely be an evening of either reading or crocheting (or both!). I have thoroughly enjoyed evenings spent with my husband and I both working at our hobbies of choice side by side. Now the only question remains is whether or not I’m going to be motivated to cook (I’m definitely a work in progress when it comes to being in the kitchen)~

I've come to realize tomorrow...will take care of itself, and that the Lord’s grace is sufficient for today. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” ~Matthew 6:25ff

I've come to realize I really want to...serve alongside my husband in a local church as soon as the Lord ordains (so the lesson in the meantime is patience and trust!). I also desire to be a mother, to experience my husband being a father - for us to parent a child together! - whether the Lord blesses us through adoption or having children of our own~

I've come to realize my children...are not deserved, but will be undeserved gifts if the Lord chooses to provide in that way~

I've come to realize the best music to listen to when I'm instrumental, praise and worship, or hymns. There are often moments when I cannot seem to articulate my feelings or thoughts, so I just naturally turn to music. Instrumental often brings images to mind, brings rest to the soul, and praise and worship or hymns are so often sweet and necessary reminders of the Truth~

I've come to realize that my friends...are instruments of grace and truth. Each person in my life to whom I refer as a dear friend has had a very specific place in my life, whether due to the particular season or the ways in which the Lord has gifted them to minister grace. And whether near or far, I am forever grateful~

I've come to realize that this a mystery past, present, and future. Growth in trust and patience has become a daily process for me like never before~

I've come to realize my a gift above and beyond all I could have ever hoped for or imagined! God in His providence and grace knew the exact time to bring this man into my life, and I wouldn’t take back a second of our years together thus far for anything in the world. There is no one on the face of the earth I would rather walk this journey with, and no one reflects Christ’s love for the Church the way he does. He’s the first person I want to share my thoughts with, the first person I want to share exciting news with, and the person I can’t wait to see when I get home from work each day. I am continually encouraged, convicted, cherished, and loved. My husband always has my ultimate good in mind, even when my heart wants to reject the truth. I am a better person because of him. And all because of God lavishing His grace on us~

I've come to realize maybe I more thankful for what I have. Thankful that I have a home when I’m washing dirty dishes, thankful for my job when I’m working on a monotonous project, thankful that my medical condition is not worse when I’m complaining about my skin, etc. My husband’s so much better at genuine gratitude, and I am thankful that he is so good to remind me!

I've come to realize I really don't I don’t get it, it makes me want to fall asleep, and just hearing people converse about it makes me want to drop my head on a desk and start snoring at an obnoxious level…

I've come to realize my included in the greater testimony of God’s work in my life. As much as I would want to ignore or wish I could have done things differently, I know now that everything has been part of His greater plan. Even the painful events, and the times when I responded selfishly in my own sin, were orchestrated as part of His saving work in my life. I couldn’t always say this, but the Lord has truly freed me from past guilt and regret, and one of my deepest desires is to encourage others who come from a painful past with the same beautiful reality – that anyone who is a follower of Christ is a testimony of His glorious grace~

I've come to realize parties...have an appropriate time and place depending on my mood. I went from being an off the walls girl in high school and college, a social butterfly who wondered what was wrong with me if I was alone at home on a Friday, to a woman who carefully chooses when to and not to be social. I have learned to value rest and relaxation when given the opportunity, and rather than feel depressed when I don’t have an event planned, I savor the quiet time I am given~

I've come to realize my a gift that should not be taken for granted. I have realized over time just how much of my life is wasted worrying and complaining rather than praising the One who gave me this life. I have SO many things to be thankful for, and I want my life to be characterized by a grateful and satisfied heart!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Things to Ponder as a Not-Really-Newlywed

As we have now well surpassed the two-year anniversary of our glorious and perfect wedding day, we can see the three-year mark closer on the horizon. When I look ahead to that upcoming day, less than six months away now, things feel...different. Did you feel different when you turned 18? 21? 25? (Or another "milestone" for my older friends?) Certain birthdays have just felt unique to me thus far - the feeling of finally reaching adulthood, of finally really really reaching adulthood, and then hitting the mid-20s and realizing that I might feel at least a hint of relief when the weirdness of the 20s is over. What I am pondering now is the idea that my husband and I are sort of coming out of this season when we are considered "the newlyweds." Sure, when we hit the three-year mark this coming January we will still be young and naive in the eyes of many (including our own!), but it still feels very different than the newness of those first and second years. I am sensing more now the reality of permanance, the reality that we are committed to one another and this life together for the rest of our days. With that sense of permanence comes a deeper conviction of my daily need of grace, as well as increased excitement for however many years the Lord affords us in this life. On the most quiet, mundane of evenings, I find myself glancing over at my husband next to me on the couch, and thinking, "Wow... He is my best friend, my husband, and I get to spend the rest of my life with him!" While a simple statement , the reality of it all is incredibly profound.
Thanks to a few friends posting a link on the Book that is Face, I came across an encouraging blog entry, one that I hope brings encouragement and conviction to wives of any age and at varying stages of their own marriages. The post comes from the Mars Hill Church blog, and is entitled "18 Lessons from 18 Years of Marriage." Having been so encouraged, I printed a copy of the post to keep in my journal. Only by God's daily grace can we live with another sinner saved by the same grace, putting their needs ahead of our own and do so gladly with their good in mind. Here are Grace Driscoll's 18 lessons from her perspective as a wife:

  1. Make time with Jesus your first priority, husband second priority.
  2. Be intimate often.
  3. Be willing to have hard and honest conversations, and pray for Jesus to make them fruitful.
  4. Pray for wisdom often.
  5. The enemy is always ready to divide you during trials. Don’t let him; cling to Jesus and each other.
  6. Forgive, forgive, forgive, forgive …
  7. Don’t enable his sin, but pray for wisdom in timing and words, and be respectful when addressing it.
  8. Be a woman of inner and outer beauty.
  9. Make your home a place of retreat and rest.
  10. Study your husband, appreciate, value and respect him, especially when you don’t “feel” like it.
  11. HAVE FUN.
  12. Pray against lies. Memorize the truth of Scripture.
  13. Spend regular, meaningful time together. Invest in the relationship.
  14. Don’t let bitterness set in if you are hurt or frustrated; dig up the root and pray it through.
  15. Be an attentive and available listener.
  16. Be teachable and willing to submit.
  17. Set your heart and body toward your husband and don’t let either wander.
  18. Repent often and allow trustworthy people to speak into your lives.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Times They Are A-Changin' & Favorite Photo(s) Friday

The fact that today is already July 30 blows my mind! Ever since returning from our travels to the Homeland, things have been in hyperdrive. More evenings than not are spent socializing, attending meetings (my husband, not me), discovering new hobbies, and trying to keep our dogs at least mildly entertained in between going here, there and everywhere. We are daily reminded that this is a very uncertain season, but in that I pray we continue trusting in and depending on the Lord for wisdom, patience, and guidance~

We attended a get-together this past Tuesday to bid farewell to yet another couple who are moving on from Louisville and our church family. I only wish we could have gotten to know them a little better through our small group and other times of fellowship, but the time we have shared has been sweet. Both husband and wife are such glad and willing servants to others, and I know that they will be such a blessing wherever the Lord leads them. They are moving back to Austin where they are from in hopes of finding job and ministry opportunities there. The gathering on Tuesday was personally bittersweet as I was reminded that my husband and I aren't currently among those with set plans of when and where we are going next. For reasons still unknown to us, we are still in Louisville and searching for a cheaper place to live here in the city, rather than scheduling a time to move away due to a ministry opportunity.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart."~Jeremiah 29:11-13
Make me to know Your ways, O Lord;
"Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day long."~Psalm 25:4-5

This coming weekend marks a significant turning point in the life of our church. I mentioned in a previous post that our pastors were in discussions regarding a potential merger with another local church. After months of prayer and transition meetings, we will be having our first worship service this Sunday under our new church name. Our pastor will still be the lead preaching pastor, and I will still gladly assist the lead worship pastor in leading the music on Sunday mornings. In addition to the anticipation of what's in store for us as a church body, my husband is also going to be teaching the youth this Sunday! In all of the transition team meetings he has attended, we weren't expecting to be told that the congregation we are joining with has around ten students ranging from ages 11-16 with no dedicated teacher. Is this why the Lord has had us linger for longer than we had anticipated? Maybe, but regardless of what we don't know, what we do know is that my husband has been given an opportunity to teach. I am eager to see what comes of this open door to leading students, and personally thrilled that he is finally going to be able to exercise that gift of teaching I love so much about him! (And I might have jumped around the room when he first came home and told me he was going to be teaching...just maybe.)

In the midst of this season of changes and uncertainties, my husband and I couldn't think of a better time to try out new hobbies! My newest hobby, thanks to my lovely church friends, is crocheting. Several friends have already been either crocheting or knitting, so I thought I would give the bandwagon a try. Lessons learning in my attempts? 1) Just because you're skilled at one craft (i.e. scrapbooking) does not mean you will magically perfect another craft on your first attempt! 2) Crocheting is good for one's personal sanctification; an excercise in extreme patience and taming the tongue! And while I have been sitting on the couch at night, cursing the yarn and needle in my hands, my husband has been busying himself at our craft table. On any given night of the week when we don't have an event planned, you will find him at the craft table surrounded by paint supplies and an army of miniatures. He purchased these miniatures to paint, which are also part of larger and complex tabletop game. This is something he has wanted to invest in for years, and the game is one that can be played with just one other person or an entire group of people. Allow me to boast about my husband for a moment - I have been amazed at his skill! He is able to take a paintbrush and make these figures come to life! He's offered for me to try my hand at one, but I just know I would make a royal mess out of one of those 25mm miniatures - so I just sit back impressed at his work :)


In conclusion to this slightly schizophrenic post, I want to share a song that has been playing in my head throughout the week. As we take this season of waiting a day at a time, I am increasingly more aware of my desperate need of grace. And rather than praying for more grace, I have asked the Lord to make me more aware of His grace that is sufficient and abundant for today's every need. He gives more than I am often aware of and is good to show me such need:

In every station, new trials and new troubles
Call for more grace than I can afford
Where can I go but to my dear Savior
For mercy that pours from boundless stores.
CHORUS: Grace upon grace, every sin repaired
Every void restored, you will find Him there
In every turning He will prepare you
With grace upon grace.
He made a way for the fallen to rise
Perfect in glory and sacrifice
In sweet communion my need He supplies
He saves and keeps and guards my life...
To Thee I run now with great expectation
To honor You with trust like a child
My hopes and desires seek a new destination
and all that You ask Your grace will provide...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Overcoming the Money Funk ~ My Financial Testimony (So Far)

Upon receiving the call from the car place last Friday afternoon, I sent my husband a text with the news:
"Well, they found more wrong than just the brake pads...After all parts and service, it's going to be about $350..."
He immediately called me at work to ask how I was doing and if I was okay with the amount. Whether or not you pay with cash, check, or throw it on the emergency credit card, $350 is no small chunk of change (at least not in the minds of recent seminary grads!). After hearing the tone in my voice when I assured him I was fine and we would just have to take the hit, my husband who knows me so very well was quite surprised at my level of calmness. In the midst of a season when we are on a tight budget with one income, more than likely moving apartments to one less expensive in November, him searching on an almost daily basis for church postings, I didn't snowball into what we have affectionately come to know as "the money funk."


For quite some time, years perhaps, I have viewed the idea of a financial testimony as something one can't declare until they have arrived at the end goal (whatever that end goal may be). I would hear stories of individuals and families reaching the enormous goal of getting themselves completely out of debt, and would think to myself, "Hopefully some day my husband I will have a story to tell, too." Call it the results of my upbringing or the fruits of an ungrateful and worry-filled heart, but I have always been a "glass half-empty" kind of girl and very short-term thinker. If I'm faced with something unexpected, especially something higher in cost than seems affordable, my immediate inclination is to downspiral into "the money funk." Definition: my reaction is panic rather than calmly thinking things through, freaking out rather than exhaling, and trusting (believing) in that moment that the Lord is our Provider and is sovereign even over this financial matter.


While there are definitely long-term goals to work towards and achieve, my perspective on the here and now has been shifting recently. Through the small goals achieved, through taking financial matters one day at a time, through maturity and trusting Him more with each passing day, I have learned that I am already in the midst of a financial journey and testimony! My gratitude for my husband and his perspective on finances and debt has deepened as he has been such a calming factor when I am prone to react with anxiety. I have also realized more than ever that we can derive so much wisdom and encouragement from others who have made the financial decisions (both the wise and unwise they have learned from) that have led them to where they are currently and what they hope to accomplish in the near or distant future. Through putting all of this sound advice together, spending extensive time confessing my lack of faith in the Lord, submitting my selfish and limited perspective to Him, I have come a long way from where I was! Below is a list of things I have gleaned from others and learned during this journey thus far. Keep in mind that my husband and I still have debt and we are still far from where we would like to be, but these pointers have been of significant help for me to keep in mind as I take things one day at a time:

1) Don't become overwhelmed and paralyzed with the total amount - Breaking it down helps begin setting and achieving those smaller goals. And for those who have control/anxiety/stress issues and struggle with daily trust in the Lord, let this one speak for itself. Trust Him and be a faithful steward of what has been afforded to you. This is a daily journey.

2) Remember that there are always others who are much worse off than you - my husband reminds me continually (sometimes daily) of all we have to be thankful for, for all we have that we don't deserve!

3) Snowball technique - The snowball technique helps break down the total debt by paying off the amounts from smallest to the largest that you owe. You might have to consider varying interest rates with this one; you might be paying off your smallest debt while another one is accruing interest at a pace that may cancel out all your efforts! Example: the principle I still owe on my car is similar to what I once owed on my credit card. I focused on the credit card because the interest on my car payments was both fixed and a lower percentage.

4) Set aside a certain amount in savings whether big or small - For some individuals, the task of setting aside a lump sum is more achievable in the short-term than it is for others. For us, savings and being in seminary didn't exactly work so well together... My goal was to get a small amount into our savings account and gradually add to it even if in small increments. Some months that small increment was maybe $15-20, while other months it was $50-75. Although our savings account is still meager compared to some (most), I am comfortable with the dollar amount and know that we can pull from it for emergencies if necessary.

5) Itemize your income tax return - So the first year I received a pretty nice income tax check in the mail, I didn't know what to do with it! I was overwhelmed and stressed out about not blowing it on something unnecessary. Thankfully, my husband intervened and we walked through some of the things we wanted to purchase, as well as some small debts we wanted to tackle. After applying what I learned then to this year's income tax return, not only were we able to pay some things off, but I was able to put a chunk in savings and contribute to our health savings account! Even if you think you're being too meticulous, itemizing will get you much further than just buying something on a whim or not thinking through the other specifics of your current finances.

6) Do your research on a reputable, pre-approved credit card - Oi...I'm still suffering the consequences of my first experience in getting a credit card. In my immaturity, I did not do my research, did not ask questions to those older and wiser, and ended up getting a credit card with a horrible interest rate and embarrassing rewards program. I kept roughly the same balance for about four years, only able to pay the minimum monthly payments, and continually felt like I was sinking further into debt quicksand. Thankfully, I was recently able to get approved for a better card which came with a special feature of 0% on balance transfers and purchases until next year. For my personal financial status, this is not only helping me pay off the balance much faster, but my credit score increased - again, do your research! Depending on your financial history, opening up another line of credit might actually hurt rather than help your credit score in the short-term.

7) Take the advice of others, weigh their opinions, and seek wisdom in applying to your own situation - Especially if you're young like we still are and feel like a kid trying to figure out this whole adulthood thing, set aside the pride and ask questions! Family or friends can provide such valuable wisdom! Whether overcoming their own financial mistakes, setbacks that were outside of their control (i.e. medical bills), or those who have been financially wise for most of their adult life, we can derive so much wisdom and encouragement from those who have gone before us!


So this is where we are at thus far. This financial testimony comes from a woman who still lacks maturity, is still figuring things out, and is still in debt. However, even slight progress is progress! I am more at peace with where we are at financially, and I can actually pinpoint areas of focus now, whereas just a year ago all I could see was this overwhelmingly high dollar amount far out of my reach. While each day comes with its own struggles, I know that our financial testimony can speak of the Lord's provision over our lives. My medical bills could have been much higher, my undergraduate loan could have been much higher...I could go on and on. My perspective is shifting from one was characterized by continually reacting in fear to one who is daily learning to trust Him and learn what it means to be a wise steward of what He has given. Mine and my husband's financial testimony is part of a much greater story, and that alone is enough to change one's outlook~

Thursday, July 15, 2010

15 on the 15th ~ Memories from the Land of Bluegrass

As a recap of our trip from bluegrass to bluebonnets, I was originally going to post a "Thursday Thirteen," but couldn't keep the list narrowed down! I finally worked the list down to 15, so I decided to stop there. This is by no means an exhaustive list of my favorite memories from our trip to Texas, but highlights the those that will always come to mind when I think back on our time spent with friends and family:
1. Stopping to buy shoes in Memphis because my husband didn't bring any
2. The very first night of our trip - my aunt boiling a pot of hot water on her stove for me to stand over with my sinus-infected head, and my uncle throwing in some Vicks's Vapor Rub which ended up filling the whole house with its minty aroma
3. Swimming with Nali who apparently believes herself a water rescue dog
4. Time spent with the Panda Family - the kind of time with friends when you just pick up where you left off, as if you'd never been apart
5. Reuniting with friends who date back 10 years, and meeting some new who didn't feel like strangers

6. Almost two hours talking with my brother face-to-face, amazed at the growth and progress I see in him
7. Tex-Mex & Steak (they can go together since both are of utmost importance)

8. Wearing my husband's deodorant for five days because I thought I left mine at home, only to discover it in the bottom of my suitcase six days into our trip
9. Traveling with my mother-in-law to four different Walgreens locations in search of the perfect Victoria, TX t-shirt

10. Sitting with my husband's grandmother for over two hours looking at old family photos, some dating back to the 1950s or earlier

11. Meeting my mom's horse, Endy, only to spend more of our time with his buddy, Speck, since Endy was apparently less than impressed with the carrots we brought

12. Catching my first fish! (And being secretly jealous that my husband caught five)

13. Many morning coffees on back porches as if it's just an understood family ritual
14. Sweet time with family - the kind that seems to stand still it's so relaxing and you just don't want it to end!

15. 46 hours logged in Green Gale with my husband, my best friend ~ we shared hours of conversation and music (and no 25-lb. dog attempting to jump into the front seat)

The time away was so good for us. We savored every moment with everyone we were able to see and found it hard to leave each destination point. One thing we know for certain upon arriving back here after being gone: 2 1/2 years is far too long to be away from family! So Lord-willing, our next trip home will be sooner than December of 2012. Just days after we came back and were unloading the suitcases, I saw something an old acquaintance posted online, something that has stuck with me this week: remember where you came from, and be thankful. I was reminded of where I came from, reminded of dear friends and family who have been influential throughout the years, and yes, I came home deeply thankful. I returned to our "normal" here in Louisville with a deep and refreshed sense of gratitude for both mine and my husband's history. In some ways Texas will always feel like home. Regardless of where the Lord takes us in the future, our peace and rest have been renewed as we continue to wait for what is still so uncertain~