Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Oh, Here Are A Few....

The wedding is over. Whew! It was a fun weekend. But oh my, I just about crashed Saturday night after it was over. Wait, make that early Sunday morning. That party went on forever! I'm waiting to get more photos from my mom and aunt because I was unable to take as many as I wanted, and I will put all of them on facebook when I get them. But for now, here are some highlights of last weekend's wedding festivities:

Parker and her daddy really bonded over the weekend. It was precious to watch!The absolute highlight of my weekend was this moment, dancing with my son:
My brother dancing with Jonah and Maggie:
Our table at the rehearsal dinner held at Villa Montez:

My parents:Blake and Amy:
me and Lace (we both happened to wear navy dresses and pearls) at her bridesmaids luncheon the day before the wedding:And I'll end with this beautiful picture of the beautiful bride:Ben and Lacey had a few days to spend at home between the wedding and the honeymoon, and the newlyweds pulled in their driveway Sunday to find water coming out of their front door. A broken pipe. A mess. The ceiling in the kitchen completely caved in. What a way to start married life, huh? They're in Mexico now, and I bet the beach never felt so good.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This Boy I Love

playing with cousins Nathan and Maggie:
Well, Jonah is growing into quite the sweet big brother. Life with him right now is really fun! He's fascinated with animals still, but here in the last few weeks, he's not been playing with them imaginatively like he had been doing every day for months and months. He's super interested in learning about them though. As we're nearing his fourth birthday, I'm really seeing pieces of the fun to come! I think I'm going to like age four! He's been really sweet lately. Once he got past the three and a half mark, things have been going a lot smoother. I definitely think his temper is his biggest issue, but, thankfully, we've been seeing it come out less often the last few months. That's not to say it doesn't still come out at times! But less often is great with me. The Lord knows I've needed some glimpses into the fruit of training, and there have been some great glimpses here recently! Earlier this week, as I was buckling his carseat, he reached out and hugged my neck and said, "I love you, Princess Mommy." I almost died. I'm so in love.

I told Joel this week that I'm just now starting to feel like a mother of two. Not that this past year hasn't had its share of parenting craziness. It has. But Parker is just now on the verge of being a real little person in our family! Up until now, her needs have been those basic babycare needs. Now her personality will be blooming, and we'll be gaining insights into what her strengths and weaknesses are and where she'll need the most direction. It's hitting me now that I have TWO hearts to shepherd! Two little people to not just keep alive but really parent. It's going to be so interesting around here in the coming months! But I really am excited about it. And to see how Jonah and Parker's relationship grows through these months of learning to really live and play together and get along. It will surely have its bumps, but I'm ready!

This weekend is the big weekend - my cousin Lacey's wedding. It's busy around these parts. The festivities will not only be physically exhausting on all four of us, but it is very emotional for me too. These weeks leading up to it have been tiring, but they have been a joy as well. I've been so grateful to have a place in this wedding, to love on my cousin and serve her as best I can. It really has been a pleasure. But I think we might be crashing this time next week! My biggest concerns are that I don't cry my head off up on stage during the ceremony and that Jonah goes down the aisle like he's supposed to without causing a disturbance of any kind. He will be with his cousins. And he will have a bell in hand. That's enough to terrify me. This would not be a good week for anybody in our family to get sick either, so I'm really praying against that. Below is a picture of me and Lacey at a wonderful, fun shower for her and Ben last weekend in Athens, and the other picture is of the ugliest, tastiest cupcakes I made for a lingerie shower I hosted for her a couple of weeks ago.

On a different note, our family mission trip to Mexico has been cancelled due to the violence that's threatening and victimizing many along the border. While I trust God's involvement in this and am grateful for my babies to be protected from the danger, it is rather disappointing. It's a hard thing for me to grapple with - when you experience God leading you down a path only to find the road ends sooner than you expected. I know He knows the reason, and that's good enough for me. But I can't say I'm not sad about how things worked out. I'm definitely disappointed here.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Book Review - The Beautiful Fight

More on serving to come, but I just wanted to take a minute to write about a book I read recently. It's the best book in the Christian nonfiction genre that I've read in a while. Written by my favorite author, Gary Thomas, The Beautiful Fight details many of the components of spiritual transformation, delving into what seems like quite a paradoxical issue: We make choices to grow into holiness, yet the Holy Spirit is the One making us holy.

I started writing posts on various chapters of this book before, but I never posted them because I would read another chapter and think I'd post something on that one instead. Eventually, I finished the book and regretted not having shared something about each chapter as I read it. At this point, how do I summarize a book that is so full of helpful, practical truths about the transformation we're all saved by grace to experience throughout our lives? Thankfully, at the end of the book, there is listed a review of the main point of each chapter, so I thought I would share with you some of that review so you can know a tiny bit of the topic each chapter deals with:

  • "First, we must gain a new vision for how compelling Christianity can be (chapter 1). We need a larger understanding of what it means to be strong 'oaks of righteousness' (Isaiah 61:3) for the display of God's splendor. Until we are captured by this vision, we won't let go of our old way of life.
  • Second, we must grow in our understanding of what it means to be experience God and to be empowered by his Holy Spirit (chapter 2)...Instead of just knowing about God, daily experiencing God's power and presence must become an essential element of our faith.
  • Third, we need to recapture the theological importance of the ascension (chapter 3). The ascension gives us hope that we can become more like Jesus is now and leads us to look at our bodies in a new way (chapter 4).
  • This sets us on a journey of offering up our eyes to see as God sees (chapter 5), closing our eyes to what is against God, and opening our eyes to God's goodness and power. We also begin cultivating mouths that speak God's words (chapter 6) and embark on a life of active listening (chapter 7). We train our minds to think God's thoughts (chapter 8) and our hearts to feel what he feels (chapter 10). This leads us to offer up our hands and feet to be God's servants and to go to the needy and lost (chapter 9).
  • With transformed bodies, we start living a life of intentional and conscious availability (chapter 11), motivated by gratitude and a desire to give God his due glory (chapter 12). Lest we grow weary in the Beautiful Fight, we remember the need to pursue perfection (chapter 13). Even though we'll never achieve perfection, the journey toward it keeps us from the snare of complacency.
  • We'll face many obstacles along the way. The Beautiful Fight is certainly not an easy struggle (chapter 14). But when we submit and surrender to God, we accept the lessons we can learn from our disappointments, illnesses, and failures, trusting that God will use them to conform us to the image of Christ.
  • On top of all this, we recognize the importance of being an active member of a Christian community (chapter 15). The Beautiful Fight is not a solo pursuit; we need to cultivate healthy, inspiring relationships - in person primarily, but also receiving inspiration through books and study to keep us from becoming too ingrained by our local culture and age.
  • Finally, we recognize that while God is the force, power, and inspiration behind all of this, we have a responsibility to cooperate with his work and make decisions accordingly (chapter 16). We can put ourselves in places that encourage growth."
Thomas so eloquently answers questions that, I admit, have plagued me for a while. Questions about my role versus God's and questions about the end goal of perfection versus reality on earth and human nature. The chapter on community was extremely good. Being a small group pastor's wife, I've been privy to a lot of great teaching on the subject, but The Beautiful Fight's teaching of the subject was fresh and insightful. The epilogue had me in tears as I was overwhelmed by the comprehensiveness and precision of God's purposes for man on earth. I highly recommend this book. For part of the reading of this book, Joel and I read through it together, discussing various parts. I think it's helpful to read this with someone, to help pull out personal application opportunities. There are study questions at the back that would be suitable for small group settings and one-on-one discipleship relationships. But you can certainly read through it on your own too, just letting Jesus guide you in your understanding of His purposes for us on earth.

(Note: I've reorganized my reading list on the right side of my blog, and I plan to link those books mentioned to posts that I write in review of that book. I'll try to get to the others soon. I hope it will be helpful to some of you who are looking for a little reading inspiration!)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Serving Like Jesus

Last week, the staff wives of our church met together and each shared with the group what God is teaching us right now. What I shared that night had to do with some things God has been teaching me about servanthood. These truths He's been showing me have really convicted me. You see, I am not by nature a servant. I mean, I get that we are all selfish creatures apart from the Spirit of God in us, but I think some people's personalities and gifts, both natural and of the Spirit, lend themselves towards a more helpful, gracious, nurturing quality. That is not me at all. At all. Service is neither a natural nor a spiritual gift of mine! For most of my life, I've pretty much preferred to be served.

I have lots to work through right now. My thoughts about serving are being transformed, but I want it to go way beyond that. I want these truths fleshed out in my everyday actions. And I'm learning what a process that is. And also learning how gracious God is to me during my weak attempts at demonstrating His heart of service to those around me. I know this for sure: He is patient!

Several weeks ago, I spent some time thinking about what a widowed friend of mine is going through. I thought about what kind of loneliness surely hits someone in a position like that. I'm just speculating here, but I can't help but think that in some ways maybe her loneliness is intensified by the fact that she's spent her widowed life serving others so much and so well. I know she's made sure to stay in community with the Body of Christ and to serve WITH others, and I'm sure that's a big part of how God has provided for her needs and why she is ok right now even during a difficult time. It reminds me of the importance of bringing others alongside us into ministry and joining others in what they're doing to serve because we all need that partnership. It is essential. All over the place, Scripture testifies to the importance of teamwork when it comes to the gospel and discipleship. Isolation in ministry is the quickest path to burnout, in my opinion and experience. Anyway, I was thinking about how apart from those ministry-partner friendships, the real kind of service that God calls us to probably in its nature sets us up for real loneliness. That's because the real kind of service God calls us to isn't the kind where we get something in return. It isn't about serving those who can serve us back. Jesus ministered to those truly in need of healing. He ministered to the sickest of sick, the poorest of poor, the neediest of all. And none of them could do for Him what He had done for them. My friend has poured out her life, investing so many resources and so much time, to many people who are in a season of life where they are probably not able to reciprocate in meeting her needs. It may have compounded her loneliness in a way, but it has surely earned her great reward with the Lord for being a true servant. As I reflected on most of the serving I've done over past years, I confess that the majority of it has been done for those who reciprocate that same kind of service to me when I find myself in some kind of need. Please don't misunderstand me to be saying that loving on believers isn't good. Oh my goodness, that is not what I mean. Investing in our friendships, regularly having couples from our community group over for dinner, hosting and attending baby and wedding showers and the like for friends are all ways that I feel called to love on the people of my church. We should take care of each other and have a mutual interest as fellow Christians in loving each other. We're supposed to love on each other in a way that shows Christian brotherly-love to be the best kind around. Jesus tells us so. Our love for one another in the church should point nonbelievers towards Christ.

It just shouldn't stop there.

If that's all the kind of serving I'm doing, I'm not living like Jesus. Who am I serving that I could never imagine paying me back? Who am I investing in that has needs that huge? As I began to think this through a few weeks ago, I realized that most of the people I've been serving are servants themselves and I could think of very few people I serve who aren't. Something's not right about that.

But it's just like Jesus to start showing me what my heart is lacking right before He brings me opportunities to practice that change. I've been amazed at the needs around me that He's allowed me to see this week. They are huge. Opportunities for serving like Jesus abound, I just need to open my eyes to it more often and abide in Him in such a way that my actions reflect His heart.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Random Things:

1.) My little girlie is getting quite big.

I tell her every day that she's not allowed to do big girl things, and she attempts them anyway. She's so disobedient like that. I'm feeling her "babyness" lessen every day. I'm not liking it, yet I'm also getting glimpses of the fun to come as she is blooming a little more personality. Not that there's much personality yet. When Jonah was that age, I could list all these qualities of his personality as a baby that ended up ringing true for who he was as a toddler and pre-schooler. There were just these obvious things....his laid-back attitude, his ability to focus intensely on something, his attention to detail, his observant nature, etc. I can't tell you a thing about who this girl is going to be! She's mostly quiet and happy, but she also has this penchant for drama that shines through at random times. When it does, she can be quite expressive. She's not saying any words. (Surprise, surprise. She's at home with me and Jonah all day. Who could get a word in edgewise?) I've been thrilled with her eating. I think our baby food days are numbered. She's loving table food. One day last week, she ate a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup for lunch and had steak, potatoes, and corn for dinner. I was so happy! This one's an eater! I tried taking more pictures of her and of Jonah, but my camera has been giving me so many problems, so these are all I've got. (I'll get some of Jonah soon and be sure to update you on his little life as well in another post.) My sweet husband went today and bought me some fancy new batteries with a fancy new charger, and these things are supposed to make my photo-taking life easier.

2.) This has been a hard week. But it's been such a good week too. Every single day has brought reminders of the newness of the Lord's mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23), and I am so thankful for that. I've been able to spend quality time and have quality conversations with my sweet friends this week, and it's just what my heart needed. I didn't know it's what my heart needed until the Lord so graciously gave it and allowed it to be healing.

3.) I bought my first pair of Spanx this week, and I'm kinda sad about it. I knew about gravity and all, I just didn't know these things would happen in my twenties. I also just realized that I'm starting to really like shopping at Steinmart. I'm pretty sure I'm old now.

Monday, March 2, 2009


My heart is heavy right now. I am burdened for someone I care so much about, and I have done all I can do to help this person. I pray that she'll want help. As of now, she's walking down a very destructive path and doesn't see that. It may be that she just doesn't care. But I'm hoping that it's because of how blinding the process of sin is, how it takes us one step further away every time we say yes to it and we aren't usually aware of how many steps away we've taken. So I'm praying for enlightenment, for the Spirit of God to make truth plain and clear and for her heart to really hear it. To have to confront someone is awful. And costly. I very well may have lost a relationship that I am not wanting to lose. But it had to be done. Someone had to speak truth. And I've actually known for years it would be me. I've dreaded it. I thought I had done all I needed to do. A couple months ago, I talked with her and hoped I was done. Rather than the conversation being confrontational that time, it was more of me asking thought-provoking questions. And her giving all the right answers. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, assume that they mean what they say and are in the place they say they are. But too many evidences show that she didn't and she's not. And I just shared with her last night what I see and how concerned I am, and my pleas to be convinced otherwise were mostly met with silence. Truth was responded to in anger and defensiveness, not surprisingly really, despite my best efforts to convey love. I'm scared of the consequences she'll face if she continues down this road of playing games with God. He won't accept that much longer, I'm afraid. Really afraid. Actually, I'm not so sure anymore that this is about "restoring a (sister) caught in sin" (Galatians 6:1). The silence I received on the subject of Jesus causes me to wonder if she is really His, and that question is absolutely heartbreaking to me. I did what I felt God asked me to do. But the enemy is full of accusations towards me, and I'm battling lots of lies. I'm thankful for the sweet (night owl) =) friend who listened to me pour out my feelings after the confrontation last night, received my tearful, trembling "processing" and affirmed and reinforced Truth to me. And I'm praying, praying, praying. Praying for her heart. Praying for all those things I've not really wished for her, like brokenness. Praying that the truth of whatever God allowed me to share with her, though not done perfectly so, will penetrate her soul and will act as the seed that will sprout transformation. His transformation of her heart. I'm so thankful He's in the business of doing that. And I'm thankful that I know Him and have tasted of that myself. All I can do is pray and continue to show love, even with the expectation that my love may not be received anytime soon, or ever. God has given me love for her, so I know that agape will endure. My part will be to keep tapping into that. Every day.