Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankful for love

For the last few months, I have lived in a season of Hebrews 13:13.
“Go to Jesus outside the camp . . . “
Those six words found me months ago in a place of discouragement, disconnect, and defeat. And it was those words that gave me the permission I was seeking to walk away.
And I did.
Instead of waking up on Sunday mornings and heading to “camp,” I drove two hours to climb mountains. I hopped on my bike and enjoyed the wind blowing freely through my hair. I hooked up two pups and walked among quiet streets. I stayed in my PJs and enjoyed a mug of hot Joe on the back porch. I attempted to build an outdoor fire while curled up under a wool blanket with a good book.
Outside the camp, I found a place to lean into the pain I was feeling. To lean into the loneliness. To sit with the questions and the doubts. To live into the tension of the now and the not yet promise to come. I sat with the wounds, with the hurt. I searched for answers. Sought clarity. Do I stay? Do I Go? I yearned to forgive. To find a place at the table. And pursued release.
Perhaps selfishly, I was hoping Jesus would show up---in my corner and validate all the reasons I had for wanting to step out, and relieve me from it all. But the only thing I heard in the depths of my soul was, “I love you.” Over and over again. I would pray, and hear “I love you.” I would whine and complain, pointing fingers, and hear “I love you.” I would cry out, and hear, “I love you.” I would yell, kick and scream, and hear, “Melissa, I love you.” I would read the Scriptures, and hear “I love you.”
His love changes everything you know?!?!!!
On my journey outside the camp, I was reminded that I am unable to freely love when my self-worth is tangled up in someone else’s free will. It’s so easy to let the imperfect bits of our humanity tell us that we aren’t good enough, that we could never be loved completely and accepted fully, it diminish our worthiness, and robs us a seat at His table.  It’s easy to let our pain build walls of protection, to harden our hearts and to push love out. But Jesus challenges us to belive that we are beautiful, worthy and celebrated. He challenges us to trust that our short comings, our failures, our hidden thoughts, our secret deeds, cannot and will never alter His love towards us.
Pain will always be a part of my story---in some way, it’s a part of all our stories. But I am learning that when we stop running from it, when we stop letting fear and judgment keep us stuck in the pain, when we lean into it, and are satisfied that Jesus too, is there with us, it eventually gives way to blessed release, hopeful joy and a way to rest in His love.
I thought with Hebrews 13:13 I was getting a free pass to run away from pain. But in hindsight, I was given the opportunity to run into the arms of love.
As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I am thankful for love.
I am thankful that I continue to be a person whose God’s love is at work in. I am thankful for the gospel that mandates grace upon grace upon grace upon grace. I am thankful that I am continually confronted by the love of the gospel that gives me no choice but to love my enemies, my neighbors, my friends. Those who think like me, and those who don’t. Those who make their home inside of camp, and those who dwell outside its walls … all because, me—a sinner saved by grace, is found worthy of His perfect love.

Friday, August 21, 2015

I didn't want to write. But here you have it.

I don't write much these days. It's not that I don't have anything to say, or don't need to process--quite the contrary. For reasons that are beyond my understanding, people have noticed and have been asking as to why I have stopped.  "Time" is the most convenient answer I usually give, and in part it's true. (Finding a rhythm within marriage is proving to be more challenging than I thought.) But it's not the whole truth. 

It's the vulnerability part of it all. 

In being vulnerable you expose all, share all and risk all. I have discovered that it can be an absolutely beautiful thing and believe to my core that is how we are called to live--being real, and honest, and exposed. Being vulnerable has allowed me to explore depths of myself and depths of relationships that I otherwise would not have known. I have learned that in being vulnerable you can find healing and you can discover hope. But not all sides of vulnerability are great, it can often be accompanied by pain and hurt.

And maybe that is where I am these days. Tired of being vulnerable. And even more, it's that thought: "[I'm] tired of being vulnerable" that has me in this season silence. 

Rachel Held Evans expresses this beautiful thought that our lives are full of moments of death and moments of resurrection. 

And in my soul it feels like a season a death in some part. I've lost some joy, some passions. I've lost my my will to stand and to be bold in certain areas. I've lost a part of myself that use to be so important ....but yet, there has been room. Room to explore new passions. Room to discover new joys. Room to uncover new courage.

So in this season of silence, may I mourn what was, but hold out hope that in some place and time, new life in those areas will be resurrected and vulnerability will be desired. Until then, I'm liking the room. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Exhaustion, Marriage, and God

Time is just a flying. 

In twelve days, Melinda and I will be able to tuck 3 months of marriage under our belt! (I still find the fact that I married such a catch a CRAZY blessing!!!) In all honesty, it feels as if that perfect day is far in the distant horizon. Perhaps because upon our return to the real world, life went full throttle. Melinda returned to work picking up 80+ hours a week with very few days off, our "church world" got turned upside down, my work load picked up due to temporarily being short staffed, and Charley is living out her puppy stage every chance she can get. Melinda is exhausted. I am exhausted. And even though the effort is there for making time for one another ....for friends, for family, for church, for puppies, for serving, for fun, and for you name it, it's all rather challenging to balance. The burden of responsibility has this way of sucking the joy out of everything that is suppose to be joyful. .

It doesn't happen often--not audible anyway. but yesterday, for the entire forty five minute commute home, I poured my heart out to God--out loud. I am sure anyone who pulled up beside me thought I was loosing it---perhaps you are even thinking that now ....and it's ok. I have learned that in order for me to process, I, a. either have to write, or b. I have to verbally talk through it. And I haven't been doing much of either lately. So there was a lot to say, there was a lot to confess, there was a lot to let go, and there was a lot of listening that needed to be done. As I pulled into the driveway getting ready to walk into our home where the puppies were waiting, the cats were waiting, where laundry needed to be folded and put away, where dinner needed to be prepared and cooked, where the dishwasher needed emptying, where the floors needed to be vacuuming and the furniture dusted, where the bed sheets needed to be changed, where the yard needed to be cut, and where my wife would soon be home needing a piece of me too ... I, the first time in a while, felt at peace. It was a peace that calmed the depths of my weary soul.  

In small group this past Monday, we talked about how God calmed Isaiah through forgiveness (Isaiah 6:5-7) and how He calmed John by reminding him of how BIG He is. (Revelation 1:17), and in that car ride home yesterday, He did the same for me. He reminded me that He is God and I am not. He reminded me that through Christ I am justified and found righteous. He reminded me that when I come to Him, He is faithful, He shows up and He offers a renewed spirit. And it's in His presence where I am reminded that it has so little to do with me, and so much to do with Him. 

Last night in the midst of our running around the house, I peaked out from the kitchen (by the way I made a delicious dinner that involved homemade chicken gravy, YUM) and saw Melinda standing in the living room flipping through the pages of our wedding photo book, smiling. In that moment, all of the crazy days we have shared in the last few months seemed but a faint memory. I was taken back to that forty degree day in February, where we stood under the tiles of the Bethesda Terrace Arcade. In preparation for that moment we knew life wouldn't always be easy. We knew that we wouldn't always get a long. We knew, not only the huge challenges of life would mark this path difficult on days, but also the obstacles of our daily routines, being pulled in fifty directions, and running on fumes would remain a constant struggle. We knew that on our own, we would fail. We knew if we made it about us, our journey together would be short. Our marriage isn't about how frustrated I may get at household chores, or how exhausted Melinda may be from putting in 12 hours of hard labor, but rather, it's about how well we navigate this (and every other) trying season that arises. Remaining true to our vows and glorifying God in the processes. 

Perhaps this is as much as individual journey as it is one we share together. Maybe the health of our marriage relies solely on the health of our individual relationships with Christ. Possibly our biggest role for the other is to make sure Christ's relationship above all else is nourished. Most likely we aren't going to get this right all of the time. (Thank goodness for forgiveness.) And there will be days, were we forget that it is not all about us. (Thank goodness for grace.) But just maybe, we will have those days, where we step back, where we remember our promise, where we remember how faithful and big and how good our God is, and in those difficult seasons. not only find joy, but bring Him glory.

"In the presence of God, our family and our friends I choose you, my best friend, to be my life mate.
I promise to cherish you, to pursue you, and to protect you. I promise to cheer for you in all of your passions and dreams.
I promise to pray over you, to serve alongside of you and to find contentment wherever God may lead us.  
I promise to you my fullest devotion, through the trials of the present and through the fears of the future.
I vow to you to be faithful, to forgive and to demonstrate unshakeable commitment.
I promise to be by your side forever.
When you are happy I will laugh with you, when you sing I will dance with you, when you are healthy I will run with you.
When you are sick I will take care of you, when you mourn I will comfort you, and when you are angry I will calm you.
When we are rich, I will keep you humble.
And when we are poor, I will remind you of the richest of love.
When we walk through the shadows of this life, I will retell you of God's faithfulness and of His goodness.
As we step into the unknown together, may this covenant of love, above all else, exemplify the love of Christ and His commitment to us, His beloved.
May our marriage forever bring Him the glory and honor that He alone is worthy of.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

God is Good!

Perhaps I shouldn't even write this blog...I fear that some will interpret my words not as they are intended or that some will feel that an answer needs to be given. But these thoughts, are where I am at, where I have been camped for the last few weeks. Perhaps it isn't pretty, perhaps it might be too vulnerable, but it's my current truth, my current wonderings, my current wrestle within my faith. 

For quite sometime, I didn't think it was the "christian" thing to do to express any questions. I grew up in a fairly legalistic church---do this, don't do that, and don't question why. Or if any of us did muster up the courage to speak that three letter word, we were often told because "God says so." It took me sometime to be comfortable in my own skin to explore outside of those limited boundaries to really think about what I was claiming to believe, and to wrestle with God's truth. In all honesty, I am still figuring out my faith, and I have come to the conclusion that the more I dig, the fewer answers I sometimes find. Maybe that is faith--trusting God enough to ask Him all of your questions. 

As Christ followers, we tend to use the verbiage "God blessed me with _____, or God provided ______, or God watched over me because _______." And to be fair, I know those words have come out of my mouth a time or two.  I am not saying that there haven't been times of God's blessings, or of His provisions, or of His care. I just can't help but wonder about all those who fall on the other side. The side that appears cursed, the side that feels lonely and knows hopelessness.

Just today I was a part of a conversation where someone said, "and that is when you believe there is a God." Of course that that was something good that was received that caused belief.

It's easy to feel as if God is on your side when you are blessed with that new car, when you are blessed with a bill of health, when you are blessed with that new job, when you are blessed with faithful friends, when you are blessed with food on the table..... But what about the guy who's only option is to drive the car that continues to leave him abandoned? What about the mom who is told she has stage 4 cancer? What about the man who gets rejected interview after interview? What about the transgendered teen who has been abandoned by all friends? And what about the child who hasn't had dinner on the table for three nights?

Why does God pour out grace to some and it seems as if He is holding back grace on others?

I could answer that question by the Christian cliches we all have heard:

"Well, God's ways are higher than ours."
"When God shuts one door, He opens another."
"You know, God has a plan in all of this."

Please hear me, I know that God's ways are higher than mine and I do believe God opens and closes doors, and I know without a doubt that God has some grand plan whether I see it or not, but in the midst of heartache, and pain, and rejection, and disappointment it's hard to lean into that truth that God is good, and that He has a plan to prosper us. 

I remember last July, I went biking with some friends (all of who, by the way, were in much better physically shape than I). I knew this going in, but I also like a good challenge. I knew that they would push me to go further than I would ever push myself. We ended up biking 20 miles one way---meaning, we would have to bike 20 miles to make it back home. With about 10 miles left, I had nothing. Everything hurt, and I wanted to get off that bike more than anything! But as much as I wanted to get off that bike, I also didn't want to quit, I didn't want to be the one who just couldn't do it. I wrestled with myself. I cried. I fought. I struggled. I prayed. I got angry. I got determined. I beat myself up. I cheered myself on. And in the end I finished--on my bike, making it back to the cabin.

To this day, it's not biking 40 miles as an accomplishment that sticks out. It's my wrestle. I prayed--I mean prayed for God to give me the strength to stay on that bike. And in those last 10 miles (that felt like a lifetime) I remember vividly with how angry I was at Him. You see, in offering up my prayers for strength, I had hope that I could feel my feet, that my legs didn't feel as if I was tearing my muscles in two, and that I could just find a spot on my seat that didn't bring tears to my eyes. I wanted the pain gone. But He didn't take it. I wanted to know that I could do this. But I never received His calming assurance. I doubted with every peddle.

This feels like such a lame story to share how ugly our struggles of this world can be, and how good God is. Riding a bike is nothing compared to what many face. I know that. And in all honesty, I don't know why some see God's grace abundantly and others experience little of it. Why God's blessings seem to favor some, and miss others. Why God's care seem enough to some, and lacking to others. All I know is that in the midst of our troubles, in our doubts, in our questions, in our pain, God is in the midst of it--whether we feel Him there or not. Perhaps on this side of things sometimes our blessings hide among our struggles, in our pain and in our failures. Perhaps a door of His goodness will be opened, perhaps it will not. Perhaps He will take away our pain, perhaps we will carry it until our last breath. But wherever you are, I challenge you to keep looking for Him. Because I can guarantee you He is there. And for that, I know He is good. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

You won't won't see...but...

The real world can be a ‘you know what’ at times! It's been one week to the day since I have reentered the daily routines of life in this crazy world, and I am ready to stand up, walk out and give it all back. One would think after a week a half away, I would be energized, focused and ready to take the bull by its horns. And perhaps I was. But sometimes it doesn't take long for this world to knock the wind out of your sails. Life is no cake walk--we all know that, and if you are like me, at times, you wish to throw your hands up in the air and scream, "why bother."

But deep down in my soul, I long for more. I long to make a difference, to use the days that I am given to make this world a little bit better--to share hope, to extend love and grace, to fight for justice.
But it's not always easy and it often gets messy.

This week I have been reading the story of Elisha. In 2 Kings chapter 3 it begins by telling the story of three kings who come together and venture off to fight for justice. I can only imagine them starting this "mission." I am sure they are eager, willing to stop at nothing in the name of what is good and right, to follow their calling come hell or high water. But if you keep reading, only 7 days into their journey, despair sets in. Their plan is derailed, hardships arise and they start to wonder why has God lead them thus far just to be defeated. (aka--they were in the middle of the dessert and had ran out of water.) This is where Elisha comes in. A prophet. A man of ridiculous faith. And he shares with the kings these words from God:

Dig ditches all over this valley. Here's what will happen--you won't hear the wind, you won't see the rain but this valley is going to fill up with water.

You won't hear...
or see...

Reading this story and thinking over my past week, it's a great reminder that only God can send the water, and only I can dig the ditches.

Digging ditches is hard work.
And messy.
And exhausting.
And at times I want to throw down the shovel.

Perhaps you know what I'm talking about.
Maybe you've been there too.

Maybe you have followed that calling into the deep waters. You've taken that leap of faith. You have stepped out of the boat, and now, you wonder--can I keep my eyes above the waves. Is the weight of this all going to get lighter? Is God going to show up? Is justice going to find its way? Will my faith stand?

I encourage you, and remind myself.....Don't quit, because:

You won't hear....
You won't see.....
But God will.....

In closing, I will share my life verse. Read in. Lean into it. And trust that in His perfect timing, the harvest will be worth it all.

"So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don't give up."
Galatians 6:9

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Abba Father

Last fall I came across a song, that captivated me. At the time, part of me was lost in this excitement of getting prepared for the next chapter with Melinda. And the other part of me was deeply mourning a support system that seemed to crumble with the announcement of our engagement. It was an awkward place to be. It was an extremely difficult place to be. It required hard conversations. There were many days that a permanent lump created a home in my throat, and the knots that seemed to consume my stomach refused to let anything but nausea abide in it's dwellings. A place where I once felt understood and supported, now lacked anything but grief, abandonment, hurt and confusion. I .... better yet, we, spent many nights praying and crying and getting angry and seeking answers on our knees. In the midst of this turmoil it felt like our engagement, our marriage belonged to open scrutiny and public conversation. It felt like it belonged to any Tom, Dick or Harry who wished to ask our interpretation of this Scripture or that sermon. It was open to criticism and to the please of watching a 3 part series on how unholy homosexuality is before we chose to stand at the alter. 

One morning, I couldn't even tell you how, but I came across the song that completely captivated my soul. I sat, closed my eyes and listened. 

"Abba, I belong to you."

As tears fell down my cheeks, it became the prayer of my heart.

"Abba, I belong to you."
"Abba, we belong to you."
"Abba, our marriage belongs to you."

I couldn't wait to share this song with Melinda. That night we sat. We listened. We cried. This song resonates as a song of peace over us. In a time of excitement and sorrow it reminded us that nothing else mattered—We belonged to Him…….and that was enough.

If any of you have ever heard Jonathan play, then you know it is an honor that Melinda and I will be walking down the isle to his violin. We knew that this was the song that we wanted. When we told Jonathan, he expressed some doubts on whether or not it could be done. Friday of last week, as I arrived to my desk to begin my work day, Melinda had text me a demo of Jonathan playing his arrangement. It was absolutely stunning and once again my soul was filled with an unexplainable peace. In his arrangement, he encompassed everything that God had and continues to speak to our hearts through that song. It is perfect.

And last night, we opened this wedding gift from dear and faithful friends (who prior to buying it had no idea the song would make it into our wedding):

Again peace!!! (and tears, lots of tears)

Today, we are still speechless! We know we belong to Him, that our marriage will belong to Him. And we know our Abba Father will meet us at the alter. 15 days and counting……we can’t wait.

Click here to listen to Abba by Jonathan David & Melissa Helser

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Dress

It's only 33 days from the big I DO! To be honest, I thought the nerves were going to kick in and override the excitement by now, but that has yet to happen. Perhaps because there is still so much to do! No worries, our weekend is devoted to checking off items of our Wedding to do list. So, if you were thinking of calling and inviting us to a fantastic evening full of laughter and deep conversations, I regret to inform you that we would probably say no. But perhaps our arm could be twisted. 

I digress.

Shopping for the wedding attire was seriously one of the most painful experiences of this all. Long story short: I went dress shopping. (This experience was only bearable because I have a bestie who knows how to make me laugh and can convince me I look beautiful even when I feel very far from anything resembling beauty.) I found nothing. Through blood, sweat and tears I finally found a dress. The catch, it was in a far, far away place. After patiently waiting a over month, it arrived on my doorsteps, and I was excited. Then, I tried it on. It needed some major adjustments. I had my doubts, many doubts. But, I found a tailor who hopefully could make this dress work. I picked up the dress 2 weeks ago, and again, I was excited. Only to find, I still had no love for this dress on me … because it still didn't fit right. My tailor was wonderful and assured me after a second round of alterations (that she didn't even charge me for) that it would be perfect. I smiled and nodded. Then I left, and the tears started to flow. 

I'm not proud of this moment.

One, it's a dress. I was crying over a freaking dress. Yes, I understand it's my wedding dress and for some odd reason we have elevated what we wear and how we look above all else on this day. But it was still just a dress …


… two, I immediately left and went shopping for a second option, because I had little faith that it would be perfect.

As I carried a load of clothes into the dressing room, I stopped and laughed at the absurdity of it all. I sat down and had a heart to heart with the Man in charge. I left the dressing room without trying on anything, got in my car and headed home. I admit I can tend to be a control freak, and this, for the time being was out of my control. I had to trust that it would all be ok. (And if not, then freak out) 

Needless to say, I picked the dress up this week (for the second time I mind you) and my worries and tears were for naught. The dress, may not be perfect, but I have fallen in love with it and cannot wait to stand by Melinda. As I left the shop that day, for the first time the seamstress seemed chatty. She asked a lot of questions and seemed to have genuine excitement for me and my NYC wedding. She even shared stories of her own daughter getting married in Grand Central Station and ended the conversation with, "this dress will be perfect for the pictures. It's all about the pictures."

We have become a people about “the picture.” I mean look at my own FB wall. It's covered. Even last night, I was so excited about trying a new pioneer woman recipe that fit our current strict food list, and I did this:

and this:

I mean, why tell you how yummy this was when I can show you a picture!

So often with our snazzy technology we miss the opportunity of being present in the moment, so that we can capture a picture and share it with the world. And even though I will be forever grateful to have a dear friend not only sharing in this day with us, but sharing his talents as a photographer, and I will be more than excited to add to our picture wall, a photo of me with my lady, and even thrilled to share these memories with you all, truth be told, not even a picture could capture the essence of this day. A day where we come before the Creator of all things, and make an everlasting promise, come hell or high water, to join our lives as one, living as an example of Christ's love for His church, his people, his beloved. A day to be present. A day not to miss this holy moment that pictures will not able to capture. 

That's what He whispered into my heart in that dressing room …

It’s not about the dress.

Does my human flesh wrestle with having the prefect dress, the flawless hair, and being that stunning bride. Sure it does. But my soul knows, that it is in His presence, standing beside Melinda and vowing our lives together for His honor is the only thing that makes a bit of difference that day. 

So to my cute little seamstress, thank you for helping me fall in love with a dress that was rather unlovable. However, it will be the posture of our hearts, I pray to be picture perfect that day. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A dose of reality

Having your birthday fall near to Martin Luther King Jr day was great growing up. It meant that you got a long weekend, a day off of school, for “your birthday.” What a gift. That extra day for my family meant a family ski trip up to Massanutten with the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Mom would sneak a birthday cake into the trunk and the family stowed away birthday gifts each and every year. I would be surrounded by snow covered hills and a room full of loved ones celebrating me! For the rest of the family, March, April and May are the birthday months and where the big family birthday party takes place. So, getting one just for me, in January, with the entire family was something I cherished. 

I think my love for birthdays grew out of this time. Not just for mine, but for any birthday. I see it as the one day of the year that gets to be “yours.” In my childhood home, if it was your birthday YOU got to pick what was being served for dinner that night. If it was your birthday YOU got to chose whether it was bowling or laser tag or what movie we went to see. Perhaps, this isn’t a big deal for most, but growing up as the only girl in between two boys, I often got out numbered, and loved the freedom to choose MY wants, on My day. 

Sounds a little self indulgent doesn’t it! 

As some of you know, Melinda and I, have set aside 21 days to give God the first of our fruits. For us, this means a form of fasting in several areas of our daily lives. As we pray over what is to be eliminated from our comfortable life, and begin this 21 day journey, I always (sad, but true) throw a minor hissy fit about it falling on my birthday every year. So, to appease my selfish desires, a birthday hiatus is built in. (Hence, why I am here). 

Another sad truth, is that I have never been bothered by taking this hiatus. I mean, it’s my birthday. And honestly,  what is a birthday without some delicious food, a glass of red wine, and a lip smacking, mouth watering, moist piece of birthday cake (or whatever dessert I happen choose).

Last night we broke fast in oder to enjoy an amazing birthday meal at Edo Squid with some friends, and even though this was the plan from day one, I still laid my head down last night and couldn’t help but think I failed. Not as in, I failed God and he was disappointed, but as in I failed to choose him and his will and his kingdom over me and my will and my happiness in the moment. 

You see, the truth is I am trapped—-trapped by the comforts of our luxurious life. And yes, my life is luxurious, even though I often think it is not. There have been several nights these past 12 days that I went to bed grateful for a warm bed in a warm house—comforts so expected that I barely register as blessings. There has been days were my stomach has rumbled, and I prayed for those who live in constant hunger—something I know nothing of. 

In our culture, we find it so easy to justify the desires of self. In our culture, churches easily justifies a system that is willing to spend millions on church buildings while the world is crying out for an intervention. I find it easy to justify self, while my soul is breaking under the tension and restless for more. I too get frustrated with the character of most American churches today, but I have to admit that I too contribute to the problem. 

I have been camped out in Romans 12 the past few days, wrestling with idea of self, particularly vs. 3:

“Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”

I chuckle as I read the study notes on this verse in my Bible. (Just for the record, I think most of those notes miss the point, and I feel they do here as well.) The notes go into the importance of self-worth and self-identity, but what if it’s not about the “self” at all? 

When the angel came to the virgin Mary and told her she was prego, I have a hard time believing that she replied “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (Luke 1:38) because she felt self worth because she was chosen to be the talk of the town. the laughing stock, or the biggest story in the gossip ring. If we keep reading of her song of praise in vs. 46 I think it was her soul who felts it’s worth, not her self. 

And maybe it’s not trying to win our battle over self, but rather a battle to get our soul to find it’s worth in the presence of God. And for me, with all the entanglements of living the American dream, my soul has had little time to find it’s worth. These last 12 days we have aimed to set aside those distractions and our desires in order to seek God’s presence. We have strived to deny self, giving up our cherished yet abused luxuries in order to create the margins where God has room to stir up our hearts and for our souls to find their worth. It’s in our sacrifices, we have realized just how much he truly sacrificed for us. It’s through our sacrifices that we have been brought to the foot of the cross—to the ultimately sacrifice that challenges us to radically live and to radically love out side of this overstuffed, overfilled and overflowing life of self we so easy end up living. 

I am not sure what God has in store for the 9 days remaining, but I am sure if I let him, He will continue to rock my world, in a beautiful transformative way. 

As for the birthday hiatus, we will carry on the rest of this weekend with our scheduled plans—getting loved on by good friends and family and breaking bread together over some yummy goods. I still think Birthdays ought be celebrated, just maybe not as self indulgent as I have made them to be. Perhaps I’ll ring in the BIG 35 next year with juiced spinach and blueberries and be completely content, knowing it’s not a huge celebration or delicious birthday cake that defines me and my birthday, but rather having a soul who has found it’s worth in His presence at the foot of Christ’s cross.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The First Fruits of 2015

It's a new year. For me, it doesn't feel like I am just starting a new chapter, rather an entirely different book. Even though I have been committed to Melinda for almost 3 year now, and she has made an impact on my choices and decisions, marriage takes it to an entirely new level. Legal papers will be signed, names will change, and more importantly a covenant of forever before our God will be made. It's not a game of love or infatuation to get lost in. It's forever, no matter what. It's hard work, blood, sweat and tears. You often hear horror stories of the first year of marriage, and in all honesty as much excitement surrounds this new book we are getting ready to write, there is also (I think) a healthy amount of fear. I honestly don't doubt that we won't make it (perhaps all brides to be feel this hope) but I know we can't do it on our own. Through Christ alone will our marriage last. Through Christ alone will we find the love, forgiveness, grace and mercy needed to make this journey to the end. It’s not an easy task and we aren’t entering into in lightly.

3 years ago Melinda challenged me to “give God the first of my year.” With the months leading up to January we prayerful spend time discussing what it will look like and mark 21 days off of our calendar to set aside solely for Him. Over the years the meaning of this “giving God the first of our fruits” has changed, and this year too it has evolved. As we prepare to enter this holy covenant of marriage, one where survival comes from being grounded in Christ, we are using these 21 days to fervently seek Him, to set aside all distractions, and to intentionally live out Romans 12:1-2.

It might appear that we have fallen off the face of the earth, but I assure you we will be back to update you on our cute puppies, our wedding countdown and the amazing things He is doing in our lives near the end of January. We are eager to see God working in our lives and taking us deeper in our faith over the next 21 days. In the meantime, your prayers are coveted and appreciated (and if anyone is up for the challenge come join us!).