Friday, February 26, 2010

It's a Sandra kind of day...

Grace Upon Grace
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.
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
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
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
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

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Even in the Means...

Well this day's been crazy but everything's happened on schedule
From the rain and the cold to the drink that I spilled on my shirt
'Cause You knew how You'd save me before I fell dead in the garden
And You knew this day long before You made me out of dirt
And You know the plans that You have for me
And You can't plan the end and not plan the means
And so I suppose I just need some peace just to get me to sleep...
(Caedmon's Call, "Table for Two")
I have caught myself humming this simple yet profound tune throughout the day... This place I'm in now...this holding pattern, season of waiting, whatever the label, has been a real stretch. My faith has been tested, really put through the fire, in recent weeks and I am now at a place where I can vaguely see what is going on, but can't yet see the end. Does that even make any sense? I've come out of the depths of toying with doubt and fear, and can see myself in the midst of a season of waiting with the hand of our wonderful, merciful God on me and my husband. This season is far from over, but my perspective is being cleared even as this very day transpires. I am out of the depths and in a place where I can actually feel His constant comfort. I am reading the Scriptures with renewed, refreshed, and hopeful eyes. Because of who our great God is, because of His rich promises for us, His sons and daughters, I can wholeheartedly say that I am thankful for where He has us. My husband and I are still clueless as to what is in store for us, but He knows and He provides - and that is more than enough for me.
I have not departed from the commandment of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my portion of food.
But He is unchangeable, and who can turn Him back?
What He desires, that He does.
For He will complete what He appoints for me,and many such things are in His mind.
~Job 23:12-14

Friday, February 19, 2010

Favorite Photo(s) Friday!

We participated in a 40th birthday surprise party this week for the beautiful woman pictured above. I took around 50 pictures of the gathering on Tuesday night, so it was rather difficult to narrow down my favorites--and trust me, these still aren't all of them by any means!! Not only did we surprise her with the party itself, but her husband asked all of us to come prepared with a "Roast or Toast" to read. She was truly touched by it all, and I'm looking forward to putting all of the words and party pictures into a memorable scrapbook for her~

Most of the lovely ladies in our small group - I love each one of them dearly and am thankful for the unique friendship I have with each one of them! They each have very unique, sweet ways of encouraging others, myself included, and I am blessed to know them during these years~

My very handsome husband with Dr. Party Palace himself~

Me and Mrs. Party Palace - I managed to get through my "toast" without tears, but being as sentimental as I am and so thankful for our friendship, it wasn't easy!

Fellow scrapbooker, picture-taker, and dear friend!

Me and my love


"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace..." (Philippians 1:3-7a)

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Somewhat Pointless Post

I must confess...I woke up in a pretty darn sour mood this morning. I'm really only posting to distract myself from work, and to remind myself that snow really is pretty - it really is! Even when you feel like there surely can't be any more of the white stuff than what has already fallen, it's still breathtaking.

I have never been tired of seeing the snow until this morning. As a girl from the south (and one who will always be a southern gal at heart), I have appreciated and enjoyed the snow every year since being in Louisville - playing in it, capturing the beauty on camera, enjoying the dogs' reactions to the powdery fluff....but this morning? Ooooh-wee, was I in a mood when I woke up! I didn't want to go anywhere, do anything, just wanted to stay home in my pajamas with my husband and the pups.

I have caught a little glimmer of why my friends in Michigan and Connecticut get a little tired and down after seemingly neverending months of this... I still want to be grateful for this beautiful season, in awe of the serene beauty surrounding me. But when I have to get up for work while every other school and business in the city seems to be closed, put on a different pair of shoes to trudge through the powder and ice (and yes, there was also ice this morning which definitely didn't help my sour mood), I find myself fighting for joy, struggling to be thankful. Lord, give me a thankful heart, and let me not miss the stunning wonder and beauty of Your handiwork~

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." ~Isaiah 55:10-11

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Brutal Honest, Beautiful Reality ~ Part 3

Brutal Honesty...Introduction

Brutal Honesty...Part I

Brutal Honesty...Part 2

BRUTAL HONESTY - I am not a very good wife. I honor neither Christ nor my husband on a consistent basis, and my outward behavior is more often marked by selfish tendencies rather than humility.

If I was to sit and jot down the ways in which I'm not a very good wife, I would have a seemingly neverending laundry list of issues. The more I ponder, the longer the list and more overwhelmed I am by my desperate need of grace. When I reflect on the thought that I may presently or in the future be an example to other women of gracious giving and submission to my husband, I sometimes shudder at how often I fall short. That laundry list of sin issues is accompanied with the feeling that I will never be able to do enough in regard to work or keeping my home in order. My thoughts are constantly spinning with what I'm doing wrong, and the nagging guilt that I have chosen, for example, one evening to sit and relax in front of the TV rather than do the dishes. Regardless of my current work situation, regardless of whether or not I am away or at home during the day, my first priority should be taking care of the home, right? I should be able to do it all, and I am constantly beating myself up over not being able to live up to the expectations of a diligent, hard-working wife.

And in this particular season of our lives, I have not been the supportive wife my husband needs. When he is doubting, frustrated, feeling alone in the waiting game, I have continually failed to be a source of encouragement or rest. Rather than be of support to him, I feel that I only add to the struggle with my lack of patience, tendency to react to the unknown with anxiety (see previous post on the issue of control), and my overall lack of remembering the promise and hope of the Gospel on a daily basis. How an individual responds to times of uncertainty speaks volumes, and I am no exception.

"Original sin fills the 'engine' of our hearts with the 'oil' of depravity--dark, greasy, and staining everything it touches. Circumstances come along and heat the engine. When the engine is hot--when events in our lives test our hearts--whatever is in the engine spews out. The heat (the circumstances) did not fill the engine with oil, it simply revealed what was [already] in the engine..." (70)

"...Your spouse was a strategic choice made by a wise and loving God. Selected by Him, for you, from the beginning of the world, your spouse is an essential part of God's rescue mission for your life. Often a spouse plays his or her part by raising the engine temperature and heating the oil. But if we're wisely honest, we realize that God is behind it all, revealing the familiar sin so that it might be overcome by amazing grace" (70-71).
"We must not ignore our sin, because it is the very context where the Gospel shines the brightest. Grace is truly amazing because of what we were saved from...The Gospel is an endless fountain of God's grace in your marriage...Without it [the Gospel], you cannot see God, yourself, or your marriage for what they truly are" (16, 25).

The above quotes are from a book I was compelled to read during our engagement back in 2007. When Sinners Say I Do focuses on marriage as the context in which the Gospel shines, and really brings to the forefront our daily, continual need for mercy and grace towards one another. I have been tempted in recent days and weeks to pull it off the shelf and give it another read...
Do you ever stop and wonder how much your heart and role in your own marriage relationship would be drastically altered if this was your renewed perspective? If my daily focus is this "endless fountain of God's grace" as I see in and through my husband, it's mind-boggling to think of how things would be different. If my relationship to my husband begins and is fueled by the grace of the Gospel, would I be so intent on coming home and complaining that I have to cook dinner, or muttering under my breath about the fork that's in the sink rather than the dishwasher? Would I be so intent on having my way by immediately getting into my pajamas (before 6:00pm mind you) and grumbling for half the evening about all of the chores that need to be done? Or...would I come home eager to see my husband and spend time with him, overwhelmed with thanks that I have a wonderful husband waiting for me when I walk through the front door? And about those chores...would my perspective on even those be renewed? Thanks that I have a place to call home, thanks for the very good gifts we have undeservedly received from the Lord... That laundry list is erased and replaced when my heart is transformed and renewed by the beautiful reality of how privileged I am to be my husband's wife.

When I get into this horrible mood about all of the work I'm not doing, guilting myself over the things I haven't accomplished during a particular day rather than resting after what all I actually have done, my husband will often ask me, "To whom are you comparing yourself? Is there someone specific, some perfect wife you know, or have you made up in your mind a non-existent ideal woman?" Oh, he knows me well... He asks because he knows. He asks because he knows it does my heart good for my negative, ungodly thoughts about myself to be stopped dead in their tracks. His rhetorical question needs no answer because it speaks for itself:
"For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10)

My husband does not judge me merely on my works, but looks past the external and sees the roots of my negative thoughts. He quickly discerns when my heart is absorbed with self-centered efforts rather than on the grace and good gifts of God. It's no wonder that the husband and wife relationship is intended to mirror that of Christ and His Church; such a parallel is evident in how my husband relates to me as one whom he chose and loves in spite of my faults:
"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 wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church." (Ephesians 5:22-29)

I pray that I daily outdo my husband in acts of love and grace. My prayers have been transformed recently as I have been reminded of the beauty of Gospel-centered marriage. Am I a bad wife? Well, I am a selfish sinner, but I am no longer mastered by that sin. I no longer live for myself, with my own desires and selfish motives in mind. What does and will make me a good wife is for Christ to be my motivation. I want to love and serve my husband in an understanding way, overflowing with grace and patience. I want to enjoy him everyday as the gift he is to my life, enjoy a coffee date with no timeline on our conversation, watch an evening movie without obsessing over the dusty bookshelf.... I want others to see the love Christ has for His Bride in us... Lord, be gracious and may that be true of us according to Your goodness and mercy.

"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 1:1-4)
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:12-13)