Easter People

FMF | Glue

Five Minute Fridays — a weekly writing flash mob designed to keep the words coming, no editing, over-thinking, or perfecting allowed!


Lent is a time for brokenness.  A time for realizing how flawed we are within ourselves, leaving us humbled.

This Lent has been really powerful for Charlie and me.  We’ve had three specific situations that have been difficult over the last couple of months — things that frustrated, confused, and saddened us.  We had been praying about them for awhile, but it just seemed like they all reached their peak of stress around the same time.

Then we realized we hadn’t truly surrendered them to the Lord.  Though we were praying, we still weren’t approaching them from a place of total surrender.

As we talked one night on the couch, we realized that we had come to the end of what we could offer to the situations.  We were out of ideas and out of strength.  We gave these broken things to the Lord, because we finally saw that we hadn’t truly released them to Him.

Then He came.

He came and began glueing broken pieces back together through His love and grace.  He literally turned one struggle around in a day.  Another, he brought opportunity after opportunity in an area of our lives that has felt bone dry.  In the last place, He brought unspeakable hope in the form of a phone call.

We were broken, and He allowed us to persist in our own ability because He wanted us to come to the end of ourselves.  We didn’t realize we were even doing this until we found ourselves exhausted and still unfulfilled.

I think it’s so sweet that He allowed us to start Lent deep in these struggles.  He showed us our need for Him as we gradually approached Easter.  He brought hope, life and strength into areas that were beginning to feel dead — and what a special time to realize He does that for us every day throughout our entire lives.

As I sit here on this Good Friday, I’m so grateful that Jesus allowed Himself to be broken so that He could become the glue that holds us together.  We are truly Easter people.

 

New Clothes

When we visit my grandmother, she occasionally likes to take us shopping for new clothes.  I used to protest because we always go to more expensive stores than I normally shop at, but I’ve realized it pleases her to spoil us a little.  When I open my closet back home, it is a treat to choose the new things that are prettier and more well made than what I normally purchase for myself.

But I also notice that after a few weeks, I begin choosing my old clothes more often.  Even though they look a little drab compared to the new, they’re comfortable because I’ve worn them so often.  I know just how they fit, I know just how to mix and match them, I just know them.  As pretty as the new things always are, they’re a little stiff since they’re new.  And sometimes it’s just easier to go with what I know and what’re more comfortable in the moment, especially when I’m tired or busy.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  Colossians 3:12

God tells us in Colossians that He has chosen us out of love to be new creations in Him.  We are to put off our old selves — for me, my easily irritated, impatient, perfectionist, anxious, sarcastic self — and clothe ourselves with things that look more like Jesus.  As Isaiah 61:10 says, Jesus is literally giving us His robes of righteousness.  This is expensive.  These new clothes came at a cost I could never afford myself, in that Christ died to give them to me.

Just like the clothes my grandmother gives us, I should revel in these new traits.  I should be throwing off my old self to slip into the more radiant, more beautiful clothes of Christ.

But just like with my actual clothes, my heart begins to fall back into what I know.  What’s comfortable.  What is my go-to when I’m too tired, too busy, too stressed to make a better choice.  I leave His beautiful clothes untouched sometimes because it’s just easier to do what I know.

But God is not going to dress me Himself.  Sometimes I wish He would.  I pray to be more patient, more loving, more content as if I think He will magically transform my heart with no effort on my part.

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But what I see in Colossians is the truth that these things come as the result of my choosing them.  Jesus gives them to me freely, but I have to choose to put them on.

Even when I’m tired, even when I’m stressed, I have to choose to wear the new clothes and not slip into the old.  Because let’s face it: the old clothes are ugly.  They’re worn thin and aren’t attractive to anybody.  The new clothes will never wear out.  They’re beautiful and attractive to people looking for kindness, mercy, love and forgiveness.

So my prayer is no longer for God to dress me.  He’s already provided new clothes of righteousness.  My prayer now is for the strength and presence of heart to choose not to think and act in the comfortable, old ways, but to choose to put on the new things of Christ every moment, trusting that they will become more and more comfortable with daily wear.

“I delight greatly in the Lord;  my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10

Mighty Good

FMF | Mighty

Five Minute Fridays — a weekly writing flash mob designed to keep the words coming, no editing, over-thinking, or perfecting allowed!


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“The Lord your God is with you; He is mighty to save.”  Zephaniah 3:17

He is with me and He is mighty.

He is mighty to save me from anxiety and depression.

He is mighty to save me from the sin that took years from my life.

He is mighty to save me from selfishness, pride and worry.

He has been mighty in my life. I am up against a struggle right now, and I think I need to be reminded that He is mighty. I need to look back and testify to my own heart about His strength, His power and His goodness. Because He is mighty in His goodness!

If we just had a little more…

What he said: “I need an MRI.”

What it meant: “I need a simple test that will turn out to cost us a lot of money at a time when our car insurance premiums are due and we’re trying to save for something else.”

I’m grateful for that MRI. It showed that Charlie’s rotator cuff in his shoulder was not torn after all, which is a HUGE praise. The pain he’s been experiencing for years isn’t the result of a tear and it’s something we can manage when it flares up. That is a huge blessing.

But a few weeks after receiving the wonderful news that he doesn’t need surgery, we received the bill for the blessed MRI that told us that fact.

I did not receive that bill with the same gratitude that I received the test result.  My mind cycled through frustrated, worried thoughts.  Why is this test so stinking expensive? Why is it that we can’t seem to make headway on our savings goals lately? I’m grateful we have enough each month to pay for the things that keep coming up, but I’d really like to be storing up more extra money than we are for some other things.

“Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15

Oh.

Thanks, Lord. Seriously, I needed that reminder in the early morning quiet this morning.

After this verse comes the parable of the rich man who tore down his barns in order to build bigger barns to store all of his excess stuff in. After he stored away more than he needed, it says he finally relaxed. He had provided more than enough for himself, so he felt his burdens were relieved. Then the Lord told him his life was required that very night.  What do his extra possessions matter now?

The man was hoping that by having more than he needed, he would never be burdened.  God was saying that the relief of burdens is not in the possessions.

I struggle with the idea that if we just had a little more, my mind would be at ease. The hopes we have for our future would feel more attainable.  But what future am I imagining in which God will not provide what we need as we need it?  What faith do I have that I’m asking Him to give us more than we need right now “just in case?”

Life is not found in having more than we need for the present. Faith is not found in storing up provision “just in case” God doesn’t come through in the future.

Life is found in seeking God first.   Faith is found in acknowledging God as our Provider and trusting that when future needs arise, so will future provisions.

In this moment, I’m thankful that God provides for us to have the medical care we need. I trust that as we continue to seek Him first and be good stewards of His provisions, He will provide for us in the things we hope for on our horizon.  

Five Minute Fridays | Crowd

Crowd.

We are normally in crowds of people like us, aren’t we? It’s crowded at church, crowded at the high school basketball game, and crowded in Wal-mart (ok, maybe not always like us!).

But as we got in line for a music festival in Berkeley two summers ago, we were in a different crowd. Suddenly I felt old. We liked all these bands. We knew all these bands. We weren’t out of touch. But suddenly, 28 felt old next to the 19-year-olds dressing like Kelly Kapowski from Saved by the Bell. When did acid wash, Mom-butt shorts come back in style?? Where did they get my neon sunglasses from 2nd grade? Am I really old enough to have my childhood fashions being paraded in front of me as hip again??

Inside, as we listened to some of our favorite songs played by our favorite bands, a distinct smell overtook this crowd. It’s hard to mistake and harder to escape. We kept manuevering around the smoke, avoiding all the teenagers with “chronic pain” and “anxiety” who were being medicated on this fine, Saturday morning in the shadow of the hills.

We were unexpectedly out of our comfort zone. I spent part of that day watching the crowd. Growing up in a small Southern town, I felt totally different from these Berkeley kids.

The whole day definitely made for a very “San Francisco” experience, but I have to admit: I was happy to get back to my uncrowded car, turn on our XM radio, and hear all our favorite bands as we drove home to the suburbs.

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Running through Lent

This Lenten season, I’m going to read the entire New Testament.  That’s 7 chapters every day for 40 days.  I’m normally terrible at sticking to things like this, but I feel like I can do it this year.  I’ve been studying the Old Testament for the past several months, and I miss reading Jesus’ words.  I’m ready for this mad dash through His life, His teachings and the Church’s beginning.

I normally approach Bible study from a “digging” perspective.  I sit down in the middle of a chapter (around 20 verses or so) and dig deep to mine out all I can from it.  This race through the New Testament will be different.

I’m reading 7 chapters a day in only about 30-45 minutes, so I’m approaching it from a “gather as you go” mentality.  The author of the reading plan suggests focusing on the big picture of God’s story as you read so much at once, rather than trying to squeeze every drop of lifeblood out of each verse.  Every day, I’ll write down a few main ideas that jump out at me as I run along the books’ path.

This morning, I read the first six chapters of Matthew (reading Chapter 7 tonight!), and a couple of things struck me.

Did they doubt?  There are so many people listed in Christ’s geneology who we don’t hear about in the rest of Scripture.  God had given a promise to Abraham that was ultimately fulfilled in Christ.  But in between were 36 generations of people — people who were in the direct line of that promise but nowhere near its fulfillment.  What about Jeconiah, Zadok and Eleazar?  They knew about God’s promise to Abraham, but they hadn’t seen any progress towards its fulfillment in their grandfathers’ or fathers’ lives.  I wonder if they ever doubted that God was staying faithful to them, that His promise would come.  Because they’re in the middle of the generations, I wonder if they struggled with God’s timing or fearing He’d forgotten them.  They couldn’t see the whole picture — that Christ was coming just generations later — and I could see how they would struggle.

I prayed that God will give me His perspective to see that when things seem like they’re not progressing, He is working through the waiting.  We may be in the middle phase of His timing, but the fulfillment will come.

Be different.  So many things that Jesus said were different from what His listeners had been taught.  The law had told them one thing, and He was telling them to go even further.  Don’t just not kill people — don’t even get angry.  His instructions focused on our hearts, not just our actions.  So many times, He tells us to do things that are the opposite of our natural instincts.  When provoked, don’t get angry but rejoice in the persecution because it can bring Him glory.  When wronged, forgive immediately without seeking retribution.

Living like this requires self control and the presence of mind to choose your actions when confronted with a stressful situation.  When overwhelmed, I can get frustrated and pitch a fit (mostly just in my mind!)  Or I can have the presence of mind to set aside that knee-jerk, human reaction and ask Him to help me approach the situation calmly and get through it with His strength.  That’s what I prayed for today in the middle of a hard week.

So much happens in the book of Matthew that it seems crazy to read seven whole chapters in only 30 minutes.  But this season won’t really be about learning everything.  I’m praying God will bring a few things to the forefront every day that He wants me to see.

And…..we’re off!

Growing Family

We started the new year with an early flight to Costa Rica to go jump on a trampoline with two little girls.

In our seven days together, the girls went from being long-standing prayers in our hearts and the subject of stories over the phone to real-life giggly, squirmy, lovely nieces. I can hear their voices in my mind, feel Marilyn’s soft curls in my fingers and see Nicole’s concentrated face as she draws.

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We had not been to see my brother and sister-in-law since our last mission trip there in 2011. We spent our week together mostly hanging out at their new home and going about their normal routine. We are so used to seeing them in a “mission” setting, that getting to do normal, everyday life things was a treat. It also gave us a better picture of what their new life as a family of four is like.

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This particular week, the everyday routine involved waking up to play Barbies with Nicole in our pajamas as the sun streamed through her big window. It found us setting the table with their educational place mats and naming the strange anatomy parts of a horse in English. We had family tournaments of Mario Kart, dominoes and Uno. Nicole and Marilyn attempted to popcorn bounce Charlie on their new trampoline. Nicole gave me a detailed synopsis in English of the new movie Frozen.

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We drove up the mountain and fished for trout which their friend Sammy fried up thirty minutes later. The girls ate their first s’more, and we learned that Marilyn prefers to neatly eat all the oozing marshmallow from the sides first before biting into her graham cracker.

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IMG_9000I had tears in my eyes as Marilyn sang the chorus to one of our favorite Lumineers’ songs. Charlie and I caught each other’s eyes over her curly head in the backseat as she sang, “I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart.” That’s one of our favorite albums, and to unexpectedly hear our little niece belting it out as we drove up and over a lush green mountain was a glimpse into the perfect plan of God.

IMG_8909I made up games with Nicole involving drawing various scenes, and she won every time. She tried to teach me to make a bracelet, but she ended up finishing the whole thing to give to Charlie. We watched Marilyn put on the princess dress we brought her for Christmas and were thrilled that the bright purple stripes in the scarf we gave Nicole matched the wall color in her room.

IMG_9091On Sunday night, we received handmade invitations to “A Special Night With God.” The girls ushered us into Nicole’s room where we took our seats and I held the “spotlight” as the music began. For the next hour, the girls danced, sang or both to worship songs. With only a flashlight shining on them, we watched as they worshipped in front of us.

It felt like God gave us that time to parade His two gifts before us yet again and say, “This is how good I am. This is what My love does.”

I just stared at them — Nicole as she sang softly, Marilyn as she lept out from the “side stage” of the bathroom — and couldn’t fully comprehend that these precious girls are our family. In my mind, I saw the scene from above: Charlie, Will, Ella and me sitting on a little girl’s bed in Costa Rica, watching their daughters put on a worship concert for us to praise the very God who knit them into our family. It was precious in every sense of the word.

I don’t know what we were expecting the girls to be like, and I’m not sure why sometimes I was caught off guard by how they are so much like other 5 and 11 year olds we know.  For sure they have their own challenges related to a number of difficulties, but they also just have those universal little girl characteristics.

When we met Nicole at the door to her colorful room, I just immediately reached out to hold her close to my side.  Anytime she stood near me, my arms went instinctively around her just to close the space between us.  We missed 11 years with her, and I think I wanted her to know she’s family to so many people now who love her.  Marilyn was a little harder to hold on to, but we squeezed her tight whenever her energy brought her within arm’s reach.

IMG_9013Of course we were so blessed to spend that much time with Will and Ella.  Charlie realized before we left that this would be the most time he’d ever spent with them at once.  We got to catch up on the many ways all four of our lives have changed since we saw them a year and a half ago just before we started our Florida travel nurse assignment.  After ten years of marriage, they are suddenly parents to two daughters and they are awesome at it.  I can’t imagine handling this sudden, amazing change in their lives with half as much grace and wisdom.

IMG_1687When we were back on the plane heading for home, it was almost as if we hadn’t even arrived because it went by so fast.  Then I remembered hugging Nicole goodbye, while Marilyn held me by the legs and I twirled my fingers through her curls.  However fast it was, each moment made it more and more real that these two girls are our family.  We’ll see them through a lifetime of important milestones and everyday joys.  Just this week, they started a new school year and we eagerly waited for the “first day” pictures to arrive in our Inbox.

The trip was fast but our journey together will, thankfully, take a long, long time.

The Year of the Unexpected!

We just got home from a special week of visiting family — three full days in Ocean Springs with my parents and a weekend with Charlie’s family in Gulf Shores.

While we were in OS, we remembered spending New Year’s Eve there last year and having dinner downtown with my parents.  Over dessert, we went around the table and talked about our wishes for the new year, 2013.  How crazy it is to look back one year later and see the wild turns our life took!

Last New Year’s, while eating a piece of insane bourbon chocolate pecan pie, I said I was looking forward to seeing where in California we would move in the next few weeks and how I hoped we’d get to Seattle and back to New England.  Charlie talked about spending time intentionally preparing his heart to transition into youth ministry when we stopped travel nursing sometime in mid-2015.

Ha ha ha.

Two weeks later, after a sunny, perfect afternoon watching the surfers on Jensen Beach, we came home to our little apartment and I started crying out of nowhere.  That afternoon, we felt the Lord say “stop.”  We decided to quit traveling and started formatting Charlie’s youth ministry resume.  Goodbye life on the road, hello sudden clarity, Holy Spirit leading, hearts changing, God revealing!

So, my new year’s hopes held out for two weeks this past year.  But when they went out the window, some other really great things happened instead.   Charlie became a full time youth minister.  We moved to a beautiful small town where we bought a house.

I started working at a community bank where I’m learning a lot and also having a lot of fun (such as winning first prize in the local chili cook off!)

We bought a 1971 Ford F-100 which we named Sally.

We threw a 90th birthday party for my grandmother and I made my dad his favority birthday cake.

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Charlie turned 30 and has 168 cans of Diet Grapico to prove it.  My brother and sister-in-law adopted two daughters who we prayed for like crazy.

We loved.  We were loved.  It was awesome!

Given my recent track record, I’m not going to hope for anything in 2014 except that our hearts remain open to welcome in the twists, turns, and blessings that God has for us.

Two blessings our hearts are wide open for and ready to receive are these two cuties:

I can’t think of a better way to begin 2014 than flying down to Costa Rica on New Year’s Day to meet our two nieces.  2013 defied predictions (especially when it comes to Auburn football — War Eagle!).  God proved over and over that He can do “more than we ask or imagine.”

So with big requests in our hearts, this is our prayer that He does it again in the coming year.