What’s been holding me back?

Tags

, ,

I will be the first to admit that I have done a pretty horrible job at posting to this blog.  Believe it or not, I’ve been writing drafts in my head for a long time of how I would make my excuses explain my absence to you.  In November (oh man….November?!), it was the obvious answer–the holidays.  In January, it was that I had started a new class for grad school.  In February and March it was probably grad school.  In April it would have been grad school, too.  In May I would have told you that it had been a crazy beginning to the end of the school year (which it was, really).  In June, I would have said that the crazy end to the school year continued and also, Anthony and I went to London (life is hard like that sometimes).  In July, it was going to be a combination of travel and 2 grad school classes.  I tell ya, it’s a rough life.

So now it’s practically August.  With August comes my birthday!  I know this isn’t really a popular sentiment among “adults” (I use that term loosely), but I love my birthday.  I like to think back to past birthdays and remember how I celebrated them.  I also like to look at the past year and reflect on how it went.  My favorite thing to do around my birthday though is to make goals for the upcoming year. I loooove to make goals.  They make me feel empowered, they make me feel invigorated, they make me feel hopeful. As time takes its usual toll though, my goals often get pushed to the side.  Before you know it, it’s New Year’s Day and I’m going through a similar process of reflection and planning.

This blog was is something I felt feel called to work on.  The timing of how it came about, the way that Leigh and I talked about it…I was am sure that this is something the Lord has for me.  Too often, I don’t pursue these kinds of convictions.  Too often I lose the discipline to keep up.  Discipline seems to be a Major Life Lesson for me.  I think that what I need in learning about discipline is accountability and maybe that’s why the Lord called me to this particular medium.  If you’re reading this, let me know!  And if you come back in a week and you don’t see anything, let me know about that, too.  I don’t want to fall behind when I know the Lord has given me the ability and the resources to keep up!

Advertisements

Unexpected Blessings

I recently spent an entire work day sorting, adding formulas, and separating data in an Excel worksheet. When I came to an impasse and my brain no longer had enough energy to think it through, I went home expecting to solve the problem the next day. Only when I opened the document the next morning, I saw that several hours worth of work hadn’t saved.

My immediate reaction was a small dose of despair, and I thought about airing my first world misfortune on twitter. (Ultimately deciding as I often do that it wasn’t the sort of thing worth sharing.) But as I sighed and stared at the open document, I suddenly realized that by going back several steps from my previous day’s work I could now solve the problem that seemed impossible the night before. An event that could have been catastrophic at worst and begrudgingly inconvenient at best was actually an unexpected blessing!

I memorialized the event on a sticky note, the office-man’s version of Joshua’s 12 stones. Each time I glance at it I’m reminded that God can bring blessings from the most unexpected of places, even unsaved Excel documents.

No Words

Tags

, ,

“Tears roll gently down my face
I lick my lips for the salty taste,
reveling in deep, deep grace.
There are no words for this.”

Like I mentioned yesterday, I lost my voice this week. As I went throughout these silent days I was sharply aware of the reasons I usually speak: to let my opinion be known in a meeting, to explain how to do something, to encourage friends, to yell at other drivers, to ease awkward tension in the break room, to try to make someone like me. I heard the words I would have said but was unable to speak. And there were a lot of them.

But I also appreciated the moments when no words were needed; moments I might have missed otherwise: Smiling at a homeless man passing on the sidewalk. widening my eyes in surprised delight with a toddler who discovered a rack of colorful cards at the Post Office, sharing a look of sympathy with a friend who received disappointing news.

In His wisdom, God has built into our lives a channel of communication with Him for these very moments. Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

Sometimes, there are no words for this.

What say you?

Tags

, ,

Today is the fifth day I haven’t been able to speak. Five days of silence seems like a long time, but it’s nothing compared to the year that Zechariah was struck silent. Can you imagine? An entire year of broken communication, no laughter, sighs in place of words. But the most amazing thing to me about that story is what Zechariah says when his voice is restored:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
   for he has visited and redeemed his people
 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us…
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
   and to remember his holy covenant…
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
(Luke 1:67,72,79)

Zechariah waited a year for his voice to return, he waited longer for his son to be born, and he and his forefathers waited even longer for God to deliver His promise of a messiah. And when those things finally came about, Zechariah was ready with a song of praise.

We’re all waiting for something. And I for one spend a lot of time picturing what life will look like when those awaited dreams become realities. But I’ve spent zero time thinking about what my response to God will be. Perhaps I’ll follow in Zechariah’s footsteps, spending this time of silent waiting preparing my heart to praise the one who faithfully keeps His promises. And perhaps I’ll get my voice back, too.

The blessing that is marriage

Tags

, , ,

Just because it’s Tuesday doesn’t mean I can’t call this a Monday Marriage Musings, right?  OkgoodcuzImgoingtoanyway…

Normally when I think of things to write about when it comes to marriage, I focus on the humorous stories that come out of my own (and trust me, there are plenty!).  Who doesn’t like hearing about the level of silliness that arguments discussions can get to with your spouse?  Married people are reassured that it’s not just them, unmarried people are fascinated and bewildered, and I get entertainment out of either response!

Today though, I just feel the need to say something serious–marriage is important.  Not only to me.  It’s important to you and the society we live in.  I realize that this is not a brilliant, earth-shattering, unique statement.  I also realize that some people might feel somewhat differently and I’m sure they have their reasons. Whatever the case, it seems to me that in our modern society there’s a strange dichotomy going on.  Celebrities make a mockery of marriage (and we then make a mockery of them), while family and churches and dating sites and whatever else put the pressure on that we find our soul-mate.  Not to mention that we even have a concept of a soul-mate who is supposed to fill every empty place in our hearts.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m not here to preach to anyone and I’m not going to get into a huge discussion about the institution of marriage.  I also won’t pretend that I know the pain of divorce.  But I see how it affects people.  I teach children who can’t control their emotions.  I have friends whose relationships with many people are forever changed.  I have family members who continue to struggle with the consequences of divorce, even years later.

I recognize how blessed I am in my own marriage and I’m grateful for it.  Yes, Anthony and I bicker about how exactly one should dry knives or where things should go in the refrigerator.  Yes, we struggle with making time not just for each other but for the Lord.  But in all of that, we are learning how to serve each other and how to put another’s needs above our own, of how to truly love and how to accept love for yourself. The Lord in His Grace gives us each the patience and love that we need as we go through these lessons.  Believe me, neither of us would be able to put up with the other’s annoying habits quirks nearly as kindly if it weren’t for the work of Christ in us!

I guess I just want you to know that building up strong marriages is important and worthy of your effort, however that manifests itself.  If you’re single and waiting to meet someone, pray about it.  If you’re dating and trying to figure out what your next steps are, pray about it.  If you’re engaged and preparing for marriage, pray about it.  If you’re newly married and adjusting to your new life, pray about it.  If you’ve been married for a while and you’re facing difficulties or you’re experiencing new joys, pray about it.  I know that I need to spend a lot more time in prayer for how marriage affects me and my friends and family–will you join me?

The Dignity of Choice

Tags

, , , , , ,

Our church search has taken longer than we thought it would.  When we started in August, we figured we’d be narrowing things down by the end of September.  This is mostly for the great reason though that there have just been so many great options out there!  Not mention that you can only visit one church per week.  :)

As our search has narrowed, we attended a membership information dinner at a church in which we are very interested.  As you’d expect, we were seated with people we’d never met.  After going through the buffet for our yummy, “churchy” dinner (green beans, salad, and that oh-so-familiar cheesy hash brown and chicken casserole), we had some discussion questions to share.  One of the questions was “Who is the most influential person in your life?  Who are people in your life outside of your family that you go to for advice?”  I talked about my parents and the several awesome girlfriends that I’ve been blessed with.  Anthony talked about his quartet and other great guy friends in his life.  And then one of the guys at our table started talking about a conversation he had had 41 years ago in which a friend of his described how Jesus Christ had come into his life and changed him.  At that moment, this man’s heart was opened to the Gospel and he, too, became a Christian.  His testimony was amazing for many reasons.  There was one phrase though that stuck out to me.  He was describing the way that God’s grace works and then he said, “There is a very small part that depends on us and God graciously recognizes that.  In His love, he gives of the dignity of being able to choose Him.”

He gives us the dignity of being able to choose Him.

I had never thought about free will in those terms; that it’s a gift, another kindness from the Lord.  To be perfectly honest, I’d always thought of free will as being more about the Lord and His desires.  As I write about it, I recognize the silliness of this–as though God needs my reassurance of choosing Him.  As if He might feel bad about Himself if we loved Him out of obligation.  This perspective on free will makes me that more more humbled and grateful for God’s grace and love.

Mantra

Tags

, ,

This was my mantra when running the Marine Corps Marathon. I repeated these words when I felt weak, and they helped me know I could finish the race.

“Your love is strong.” -Jon Foreman

This has been my mantra for life this week. It’s been the kind of week where I procrastinated, suffered the consequences, overslept, missed deadlines, forgot my glasses, and needed a mantra.

God brought these words to mind when I felt weak, reminding me that a strength not my own will carry me through the course.

The Comfortable Pants

Tags

, ,

The most comfortable pants known to man.

I found a pair of discarded khakis in our laundry room that make me want to gain 15 pounds so I can wear them in public. They’re that comfortable.

And I think if I’m honest with myself that’s the way stress is for me, too. I’m willing to indulge in things that I know aren’t good for me, time and time again, because I’m comfortable there. I recently told my counselor how uncomfortable I am when I’m not stressed. My mind feels strangely blank and free and begins to frantically search for something to be anxious about. “Stress is like my idle,” I said; and then froze. We locked eyes as what I said sunk in. Because I meant “idle,” but as I spoke it was clear that stress is also my idol.

So I’m asking God to show me ways to reclaim the role of idle in my life: the place I go in times of joy, hurt, and neutral. For me that means a lot of time in the Psalms being reminded that, “I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you.” Psalm 56:12; “The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1b; “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1.

What about you? Where is your idle? What pair of comfortable but harmful habits might you need to give up? And if you have sewing skills, would you be willing to take in a pair of pants for me?

A Mighty Fortress

Tags

, , , , , ,

This one is just too obvious for a Lutheran not to share on Reformation weekend! Not to mention that the lyrics are just great.  They’re truth.  They’re power.  They invigorate me (especially when they’re sung in the original rhythm…but that’s for another post).  I’ve only included the 4th verse–I encourage you to look up the whole thing though, as that’s the best way.  :)

That Word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours, through Him who with us sideth.

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also!

The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still!

His Kingdom is forever.

Marriage Bliss

Tags

My parents recently visited from Texas for a week. After 35 years of marriage they still hold hands and kiss in public. My mom sits right smack dab next to my dad in the middle seat of the truck while they ride around the farm. It’s cute, sickeningly cute sometimes.

They also still bicker, and disagree, and are inconsiderate towards one another in making plans and decisions. Their marriage isn’t perfect. They haven’t been blissfully happy each and every minute of the past 35 years. But they each look more like Christ now than they did before, a process brought about in part by working through those disagreements and forgiving the inconsiderate choices.

Even though I haven’t been married, I’m convinced that my happiness doesn’t lie on the other side of the wedding rainbow. Would I love to be married? Absolutely! But I don’t expect God’s purpose for me to end there. I believe that the purpose of marriage is holiness, not happiness. And for those of us who are single, God’s got the same purpose for us right now as he does for our married friends.