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!).