Sweet Sixteen

It really is a sweet number. Of course, with Doug every number is sweet. And I don’t say that just to be cheesy. We have seen so many ups and downs over the past sixteen years, but God has shown us His love by constantly reminding us that true love perseveres regardless of the ups and downs.

Sixteen years ago my wonderful husband made a commitment to the young woman he thought he knew then. He’s learned a lot over the years, but he’s still here! And I’m thankful!

We have discovered life together over the past sixteen years. And I know we’ll discover a whole lot more over the next sixteen. (Yep, he’s already let me know he wants to stick around for at least another sixteen!)

This morning we will drop our children off with our dear friend Mary Ann. We will head to Little Rock for a day to ourselves. A day in which we won’t worry about checking e-mail or thinking about the todo lists. A day when we just enjoy each other. We won’t avoid talking about the kids because, after all, they are a huge part of who we’ve become as a couple. We won’t avoid talking about the ministry, because that too is a major part of us. But, we will just be us. We will do what we enjoy. And we will enjoy each other.

That’s what makes sixteen so sweet. We have learned what we love about and with each other, and we love celebrating the fact that we’re a little odd. Okay, so maybe we are a lot odd. But we like it.

So, happy anniversary, precious husband! I’m so thankful for sixteen years with you, and I look forward to sixteen more…and then thirty-two more after that.

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Joyful & Triumphant Adoration

As I opened my journal to write out my thoughts and prayers this morning, my heart felt heavy. At first I couldn’t even think what to write. Where should I begin? How could I turn it all over to the Lord?

In my heart and mind I felt the jumble of needs.

The spiritual weight of several people I love who have never surrendered to the Lord. Or those who have surrendered but are distant from Him now, hurting themselves and others with that distance.

The emotional weight of watching people dear to me struggle under grief, uncertainty, and need.

The mental weight of seeing my own schedule and todo list, wondering how to balance it all while still being available for my family and the ministry needs around me.

I just didn’t know how to begin to pour it all out before the Lord.

But we had music playing – instrumental Christmas music. The song running at the time was a piano version of “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

The first line ran through my mind as I listened:

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant

All I could think to write was,

Joyful and triumphant? That’s not how I feel this morning, Lord. But I will still come adore You. For You alone truly are worthy.

Do you realize that He is not just worthy – He is faithful? Oh, so very, very faithful. Powerfully faithful. And in that moment, He showed that faithfulness to me.

Not many words followed on my journal page, but one powerful thought took control: the reminder that He can take any of the things weighing down on my heart and use them for His glory.

But, it doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t just take any of it. He takes all of it. Let that sink in a minute. There is no picking and choosing. There is no sense that He has to prioritize and only handle certain things for His glory. No, He has the power to take all of it – every single thing that weighs us down – and glorify Himself through it.

It still doesn’t stop there, though. He not only has the power and the ability. He not only can. He will. There is a certainty.

He will do it!!

Not some. All.

Maybe not the way I would choose or want. Maybe not in any way I can foresee. And maybe still not without heartache on our part. But, it will be the way that is, beyond a doubt, best. And He will be glorified.

What is weighing you down this week? What has you maxed out and overwhelmed. What has you in tears? What has you anxious and stressed?

Whatever it is, be assured that He will use it beautifully for His glory.

May I share something with you, my friends? I feel it now. The struggles are still there. But now the joy and triumph are too. Oh, what a mighty God we serve who can turn that around in a matter of seconds!

Will you come adore Him with me?

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One of Those Weeks

Do you ever have those weeks? You know, the ones where there is already more on the to-do list than hours to complete the list, but more comes along all through the week. Or the ones where very tool you need to attack the list in an efficient manner fails you. Or every task takes longer than it should. Or a crisis hits. Or all of the above.

No, I’ve never experienced weeks like that. Definitely not this week. No. Not at all.

Can you hear the sarcasm dripping across the written page? Yep, this is one of those weeks for me.

Typically in those weeks I don’t have much time to write, but this morning I just felt like I needed to. I didn’t really sit down with a thought of what to write – just a desire to take five minutes and do it. (Warning: my raw thoughts can be scary!)

I don’t have anything deep and meaningful to lift you up out of a week like this. I don’t have a magic wand to make it all better. I don’t even have Scripture that tells us that Jesus has a way to help us eliminate weeks like this. In fact, the Bible tells us just the opposite. We’ll have these weeks. Period.

All I have is a promise: If we are obedient, He will work through us. Yes, even in weeks like this.

If my attitude is any indication, I have not been very obedient this week. But I want to be. I want to finish well. I want today to show full reliance on Christ. I want to be His hands and feet today, setting aside anything that gets in the way.

That means I have to surrender the todo list to Him, too.

So, here I go. I’m choosing to be used by Him right now. I’m choosing to not have a bad attitude about having one of those weeks. I choose to be a Christ-honoring wife and mother instead of a gripey, irritable one. I choose to not get agitated when things don’t go as I planned. I choose to not be annoyed by interruptions. I choose to not be overwhelmed by the todo list, but to prayerfully tackle it in full submission to the Holy Spirit’s leadership.

Are you having one of those weeks? Know that I’m also choosing to focus my mental energy on praying for you. Because I know how it feels. And I know how Jesus can turn it around.

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The Marriage Compound

The movie Jerry Maquire came out while I was in college. Many of my peers loved it, but I was never too fond of it. The whole idea of, “You complete me,” just did not resonate with me. But it would be years before I would really understand why.

You see, I was never incomplete.

I look around and see young men and women who feel they must be in a relationship to be whole. They cannot thrive without a significant other by their side. Sadly, that mentality is becoming ingrained in even our young children, as fourth and fifth graders believe they must be in exclusive “relationships.”

Ultimately, they all believe they are incomplete without that relationship.

I could go on and on about the danger of this mentality among our children, youth, and young adults. But, that’s another discussion for another time. For now, I am overwhelmed by the implication this mentality has on the married people of our society.

The idea that we need a spouse for completion makes two presuppositions.

First, it presents the idea that we are incomplete before marriage. Oh, my friends, that is a lie! I said it once, and I will say it again: I was never incomplete. At least, I have not been incomplete since the day I surrendered to Christ’s lordship and He made me whole. Perhaps I was lonely for the type of relationship that can only come from marriage. Maybe certain aspects of my life could never be truly fleshed out without a spouse. But I was not incomplete.

Secondly, this mentality places on our spouses a responsibility they were never meant to carry. They cannot make up for what we lack. If we lack completion, it is because we lack Christ. No human being on earth can fill that hole.

So, if marriage does not complete us, what does it accomplish? After all, the Bible speaks of us as two becoming one. Does that not mean that we fit together like a puzzle?

What if we were to think instead of marriage as a compound?

Think back with me to the basics of high school science. A compound occurs when two elements are combined to form something new. The two elements cannot be easily separated once they are joined. Take water, for instance. Hydrogen and oxygen are elements with their own identities and their own usefulness. But when they come together, they form something brand new – water. Water cannot be used for the purposes hydrogen or oxygen were intended. Neither can hydrogen or oxygen be used in place of water.

Marriage accomplishes the same purpose. When we join together as husband and wife, something new is formed. I can never again be what I was as a single woman. If I try to do so within my marriage, I will only cripple the new creation that God has formed through the union with my husband. If I try to step out of the marriage to reclaim what I once was, I will never succeed. Instead, I will be constantly battling the scars formed by a forced separation. But if I embrace who I am as Doug’s wife and who we are together as a couple, there is much that can be accomplished!

Is there a way you are expecting your spouse to complete you? I encourage you this week to seek that in Christ instead. And watch how that one act will give Him freedom to turn you into a beautiful, fulfilling marriage compound.

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Not Overwhelmed…Focused

Over the past few weeks, our family has spent at least half of every Saturday chopping and burning tree branches.

It started when Doug was able to borrow a pole saw and deal with some of the limbs that had been hanging over our house and yard. We wanted to get it done before winter, knowing that an ice storm could wreak havoc on the trees and our roof.

I really didn’t think it would be that big of a job. I mean, I knew there were quite a few branches hanging over the house, but not that many.

For the record, it’s amazing how much bigger and more numerous they seemed when piled on the ground!

The first Saturday, we dove into the pile of what Doug had cut earlier in the week. But when we were only about halfway through the front yard pile (there was another pile on the side of the house and yet another in the back yard), Doug climbed up on the roof and cut out a few more branches.

Have I mentioned there were a LOT of branches?

The next week, we left the front yard and worked on the back yard, chopping, burning, and salvaging logs for the fireplace. We even roasted hot dogs and made s’mores, just to make it a bit more fun.

But it was still overwhelming. And we still had the side yard. And Doug cut down a few more branches in the backyard.

Yes, there were a lot of branches.

On that second Saturday, my oldest was manning the fire. We had a huge pile of branches beside the fire, waiting to be burned. But for two solid hours, that pile didn’t seem to shrink any. We kept cutting and piling, adding branches to the pile and to the fire itself. Finally, we had the back yard cleared – well, except for the huge ever-growing pile still waiting beside the fire.

My daughter, tired and hot from standing near the fire, looked at the huge pile with dread. “That will take forever to burn through, Mom!” she sighed.

Wrapping my arm around her, I turned her toward the rest of the back yard. Her eyes grew wide as she saw bare ground where branches had been piled not long before.

Life has a way of doing this to us. We see only what is right in front of us. Sometimes it is because what is right in front of us requires all of our energy and attention, leaving us no choice. Other times, we choose to keep our attention close, ignoring the broader picture.

Still other times, God closes our eyes to what is beyond the immediate. He knows that seeing it all would be like seeing all of those branches lying in the yard at the same time – overwhelming. The task before us would be too great. All we can handle is what is right in front of us.

But God knows that we can, in truth, handle it all. He knows He can walk us through each step until the job is done. We just need to keep our focus on Him and the little bit right in front of us.

There are times when God wants us to open our eyes to the bigger picture, seeing how He is working beyond our tight, little world. Other times, though, He simply wants us to obey in what He has placed before us right here, right now.

How can you focus today?

(PS – We finished the task last Saturday. Which means tomorrow we get to finally put out fall decorations instead of doing yard work. YAY!)

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Wednesday Wonderment: What About Advent?

I am a lifelong Baptists, and as a Baptist I was not raised in a liturgical tradition. But there is something very powerful about the Advent approach to the Christmas season.

So, here’s my wonderment for today: How many of you take part in some sort of Advent approach to Christmas? I’m not talking about the countdown where you open a fun box every day, although that is a lot of fun, too. I’m talking about a daily or weekly devotional perspective during four weeks leading up to Christmas – and possibly even the subsequent twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany.

Our family loves lighting the candles on our Advent wreath every week. We pick a theme for the season (names of Jesus, people of the Christmas story, characteristics of God, etc) and discuss four aspects of that theme as they relate to the incarnation of Christ. Then we bring them all together when we light the final candle on Christmas.

Individually, we also read an Advent devotional. There are many to choose from, and you can easily find them by searching for them. So, I’m just going to give a plug for my personal favorite:

A Journey to the Manger: The Places of Advent (Kindle)

A Journey to the Manger: The Places of Advent (Print)

I might have to admit to bias since this was written by my husband, but this really is a beautiful, whole Scripture approach to Advent. I have read it, but I look forward to slowly pondering through it this Advent season.

It’s your turn now! Do you celebrate Advent? If so, how?

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What Am I Missing?

Doug and I started something new last year. We began using Journibles to help us make our own hand-written copies of Scripture. The whole family has worked through copying Proverbs this year, and Doug and I are also working on Psalms and John. We will probably encourage the kids to do Psalms next year.

Now, I am a homeschooling mom. We do copywork. We do dictation. That is just part of the deal, although I am not as consistent and heavy-handed with those activities as some homeschoolers are. But, you’d think that I would be very attentive to the little details of copying.

And you would be wrong.

It never ceases to amaze me just how easily I miss the little things. I look at a phrase, turn to copy it, and immediately realize that I do not know what punctuation is needed. I can’t remember which article is used in this situation. How much space will I need for the rest of the verse?

I remember the “real” words. But the little details? Not so much. Yet the little details represent significant aspects of each verse. Although punctuation did not exist in the original language, we use it now to shape our understanding of Scripture. Contemplating that comma can really make me stop and consider whether how its presence affects the text.

The little things are a very big deal.

God works in the little things all around us. But do we notice? Or do we miss them, just like I miss those commas, semi-colons, and articles. Sometimes we notice them in a second or third glance. But what happens when we are not forced to take that second or third glance?

Slowly but surely, I am training my brain to truly look at the text I am copying and get it right the first time. More importantly, though, I want to train my heart and mind to catch the little details all around me.

God works in my children’s fleeting smiles and little comments. Do I see it?

God’s hand is seen in the butterfly that flitters across my path. Do I notice?

God is speaking through the momentary expression on a needy soul’s face. Do I hear and obey?

The clutter of life often distracts us from the little things. Big things are too pressing. Too noticeable. They pull at our attention and focus. And the big things are important. I would never say otherwise! But, may we never be too quick to dismiss the little things. May we take the time to truly notice. And may we willingly partner with our heavenly Father as He works through everything, little and big.

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