Thursday, July 28, 2011

This Weekend, by M

Life has been pretty hectic for me this week. It's Thursday and so far this work week I've had two evenings booked solid with church stuff and two evenings taken up by 12+ hour work days. I have a half-written post on stewardship that I meant to put up this week... and it's still half-written. Stay tuned!

I'm going to Buckhead Church's Singles Leader retreat this weekend... I'm very excited, a little nervous (I don't have any real friends going), and also just kind of exhausted. They made sure to email us a few reminders including suggesting that "if you're interested in partaking in water activities, please be mindful of modesty."

As such, I will now bring you, courtesy of our dear friend Jon Acuff over at ... an ode to the tankini.

#90. The tankini March 30, 2008

I’m pretty sure that somewhere in the Old Testament, perhaps in the book of Joel, God says that he does not like bikinis. I mean sure, Jesus hung out with hookers and the lowest of the low, but that was then. These days, the trinity hates bikinis. Enter the tankini. The tankini is kind of what would happen if you cut a one piece in half. It’s a tank top on top and a regular bathing suit on the bottom. It’s less Victoria’s Secret and more Land’s End. It was originally created in a church laboratory for youth group trips to the beach...

I'm not sure I've worn a tankini in public... maybe ever. I do have one, though, which I stole from W after she wore it for a whole summer as a counselor at YMCA camp. Too bad it looks designed and crafted for a 13 year-old. Maybe I'll just skip the water activities altogether?

Be back on Sunday night with many great things to share!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Idolatry and my New Kitchen

Hello friends! I am back from my very long hiatus and I am now officially a married woman! Although, I haven't changed my last name just yet, which, if you are not married and haven't looked into it, is actually rather complicated and time consuming. So for now, I am "W" only metaphorically and not legally, haha.

I will spare you all the details of the wedding and honeymoon and the awesomeness of the last few weeks, but believe me when I say that I had the best wedding EVER, that I have the best family and the best husband (ahh! husband!) in the whole entire world, and that I am blessed beyond belief. If you want a run-down of my top 10 favorite moments from the wedding/honeymoon, check out my post from yesterday on my personal blog!

This post isn't about the wedding, or about marriage, although I'm sure I'll be writing about both topics pretty soon.

No, this post is about my new kitchen.

See, I lived in a REALLY crappy apartment last year. It wasn't great to begin with, and was made much worse by two roommates who were not as clean as I would've liked. Maybe my former roommates would beg to differ but I really don't think I'm a super neat freak or OCD about cleanliness so much that I just want to live and cook in a place that does not have bugs, mysterious smells, or mold in the fridge. I love to cook, but in that apartment, I cooked only when completely necessary and not without doing a complete swabbing of the kitchen in Lysol wipes. My cooking hobby become nearly nil.

Since moving in with T as of Friday, I am having a bit of an idolizing relationship with my new kitchen. I saw idolizing because I have been prioritizing it above pretty much all else, including my own personal hygiene (irony, yes?), unpacking, and yes, my quiet time. I am enthralled with its granite countertops, large pantry and numerous cabinets. I fantasize about all the cooking and entertaining I will do there, and spend lots of T's time marveling at the fact that it's MY kitchen. "No," he says, "It's ours." And I say, "Well, technically yes but I will be the ONLY ONE cooking in it."

And this is a first for me. I have never had a kitchen before where I am its only cook. This means the freezer space is ALL MINE, the tupperware is ALL MINE, the condiments and spatulas and ziplock baggies and the sacks of potatoes in a cool dark space are ALL MINE. And I'm thrilled.

I intend to make lots of new and interesting things like salads with candied hazelnuts and apple slices, homemade lettuce wraps with hoisin chicken and water chestnuts, endless batches of crock pot chili made extra thick with no kidney beans cause it's MY kitchen and MY chili and I do what I want.

And this is where the idolatry comes in. You see, idolatry is an interesting topic in the Bible. It's not as heavily condemned as coveting, at least in terms of the 10 Commandments, but it's not altogether different. Coveting is lusting after something you do not have, and idolatry is lusting over something that you do have to the point that you desire it more than you desire God. And it certainly sounds like I'm lusting over the kitchen, huh?

I think it's easy to get caught in the trap of loving the blessings more than the Blesser. That's what I've noticed in myself these last few weeks when I have been remarkably and undeservedly blessed by SO MANY THINGS. I've realized how much I love the blessings, how much I love being the center of T's and everyone else's attention, how I love the gifts and my new sparkly, matching wedding band, and having a two-week long fantastic Caribbean honeymoon and yes, how much I love my new kitchen.

And it's okay to appreciate and be grateful for these things. But if love comes from God and is God, I can be assured that His desire is NOT that I spend my time and energy using the love He gives me on things rather than people.

So, I'm trying to get better. I'm trying to appreciate while acknowledging that everything I have is undeserved and a gift from Him that he reserves the right to revoke at any time, and that I am called to be joyful regardless. I'm trying to see Him moving in all areas of my life-- not just those that are shiny and new and exciting because of my new marriage and new job. I'm trying to remember that every time I approach anything with an "ALL MINE" attitude I am both insulting the Creator by whom and for whom everything is created, and also insulting myself by believing that I am what really matters in my life.

HE is what really matters in my life.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Ready to sell my aorta for a quarta"

Love love love love love this video:

If I were more hip, better at bustin rhymes, and generally cooler... I'd be this girl. Alas, I guess it will be close enough to just call this my new anthem. I especially love the end, so if you're going to watch it, stick with it through the whole thing.

Love it.

...more than the watchmen wait for the morning, I will wait.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Burnt Biscuit Syndrome, by M

For all of the things (good and bad) that I took away from the "courtship" with Mr. Maturity, my favorite is the phrase "burnt biscuit." I'm not sure if this is a phrase that's common in the south, or maybe just common to Mr. Maturity's vocabulary... either way, I like it. You can use it a couple of different ways:

1) As an insult: "Last one over here's a burnt biscuit!"
2) As a threat: "Mom, this biscuit is burnt." "Say that one more time and I'll burnt biscuit you!" (Why do moms always say things like this?)
3) In a literal sense: "I prefer a non-burnt biscuit to a burnt biscuit"

or, my favorite...

4) As a simile/metaphor: "That meatloaf is as dry as a burnt biscuit!"

Maybe the alliteration is funny to me. Or maybe I just like to talk about biscuits because it makes me seem more like a native southerner than I really am. (Although, no one down here knows about the year mom did nothing but bake biscuits, and subsequently, we did nothing but eat them. What was that one recipe called - touch of grace? Also a funny phrase for a biscuit, if you ask me!) Anyway, at the end of the day, here's the thing about a burnt biscuit: it's passed over, left out, unappreciated, unwanted, and undesirable. I'm sorry, burnt biscuit, but it's rough going for you, my friend.

...I realized recently that my issue with singleness isn't that I need someone to tell me I'm pretty, or hold my hand, or take a nap with me, or make plans for Saturday night. I'm not significantly bothered by not having a sparkly ring, or not picking out and wearing a beautiful dress, or even not having sex for the forseeable future. I can deal with not having these things.

My issue with singleness is feeling like the burnt biscuit.

Moreoever, as I have recently discovered, my biggest issue is with everyone else potentially thinking I'm a burnt biscuit.

(I honestly do not know why this all didn't occur to me long ago. I've think I've been walking around these ideas for a long, long time, but only recently hit it on the head. Linguists, psychologists, and communication scholars say that we can't conceptualize an idea until we have a name for it. Perhaps Mr. Maturity's big purpose in my life was only to introduce me to "burnt biscuit"... ha!)

So, I've diagnosed myself with "Burnt Biscuit Syndrome"... now, burnt biscuit syndrome does not mean that you actually are undesirable, unwanted, passed over, etc. If that were the case, the diagnosis would just be "burnt biscuit." The syndrome, however, is when you feel like a burnt biscuit, even when you are not. Kind of like hypochondria for baked goods... It's a syndrome that is fed by lots and lots of lies that the world (and many would argue, Satan) feeds us about what makes us good and desirable as women. The good news, however, is that having a diagnosis means it's easier to craft a treatment plan. My plan? Romans 12:2 - renewing the mind.

Now that I know exactly what the problem is, I can use my "sword of the spirit" to cut those lies down as they attempt to creep into my brain. I can stand up for myself and say "I will not be a burnt biscuit, Satan, and you can't make me!" (haha I just pictured myself wielding this giant sword against an onslaught of buttery biscuits)

In all seriousness, though, this is a huge breakthrough for me. For months I have been praying "please, Lord, show me what about singleness is such a challenge for me." "Please teach me how to embrace singleness, to use it productively and not continue to chase after the idol of relationship." Now I get it. Now I can start working to convince myself of a couple of things:

1) Being single does not make me a less valuable person to God or others (au contraire, actually)
2) Being single does not put me on any kind of "B list" of adulthood.
3) Being single for this season does not mean I will automatically revert back to pre-dating, high school Monica.
3) Being single and being married is not on a vertical axis of desirability, but on a horizontal axis of timing.

I especially like that last one. (Doubly so because I made it up all by myself haha) I'm honestly starting to feel better about singleness already. Thanks God, and Mr. Maturity, for bringing this to light for me!

Friday, July 15, 2011

M's Wedding Speech

W & T are still on their honeymoon. Remind me to take a two week honeymoon when I get the opportunity, okay?

W asked me the night of the wedding to "pubish" my maid of honor speech so she could read it again and remember it (ha!). I've edited the original version into what most closely resembles what I actually said. My goal was to keep it relatively light and funny, while at least acknowledging the that day was bittersweet for me. I think I accomplished it. Here goes:

"Where to even start this speech!? It’s kind of difficult to capture 25+ years of life together (that would be the two of us) and combine it with talk of a future which hopefully includes 50+ more years (that would be the two of them…) It’s a tall order! I guess I’ll start by first telling T all of the reasons for which he can thank me for making W a good marriage mate:

1) With all of our time shoved together into tight spaces (the womb, the double stroller, the kitchen sink, the twin bed…) W has learned to be a keep-to-yourself sleeper who respects the barrier pillow.

2) Because of my childhood shyness, W was appointed as spokesperson for the both of us. This resulted in her being forced to talk to adults, answer questions, and eventually develop into an extrovert… which complements T's introverted nature nicely, which he don’t admit to, but it’s true.

3) Who knows where W would have ended up without my incessant middle-school nagging (and okay, sometimes downright coercion) to stop with the sweatpants, learn a hair-do, wear a bra, and shave her legs!?

4) Courtesy of me, W is excellent at being bossed around... But, you’d never abuse this privilege like I would, right T??

5) Finally, being a twin carries with it a unique aptitude for relationship. W was born as a couple, raised as a couple, matured as a couple, and will enter into your marriage coupling with skills, insight, and experience that simply cannot be otherwise learned. She is primed for partnership... she'll probably be better at it than you.

…for all of this, I have one thing to say to you, T… you’re welcome.

Now about W and T… a few months back I had T interviewed for a little bachelorette party game that we were planning to play. He was asked when he knew he was going to marry W… he answered (quote) “when I asked and she said yes.” Nice, T… very smooth. I was thinking of this as I decided what to include in this speech; it occurred to me that W and I prophesied your wedding long beforehand… before the proposal, before the first kiss, before the first real dance. I believe it was over some magical fruit smoothies in the basement of King Library at Miami University. It wasn’t a grand or ground-breaking proclamation, but a short acknowledgement between the two of us that T probably was the one and it was likely only a matter of time. I don’t think we realized at the time the full weight and life-changing nature of the conversation. Although, W was sure to let me know that I was in charge of making sure all proposal-related details would be acceptable and pleasing to her (I think we covered that just fine, right T?!)

Many people say, of finding “the one,” that “when you know, you know.” In a paradoxical way, it seems that the conclusion of the dating “hunt” becomes almost anti-climactic… instead of big waves crashing down and throwing you towards the right person, it’s more often a beautiful peace and stillness… a steady conviction that this person just feels like… home. More than anything else, that’s what I see when I look at W and T. They absolutely radiate a rightness… a peacefulness about their relationship… the kind of joy the heart only feels when it is in line with God’s sovereign plan.

Paster Steve said during the ceremony that “what God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Mark 10:9). I have had the privilege of being “joined together” with Mallory for the past 25 years, and I guess today I pass the torch. I could not be more confident that you are in good hands with each other, and in the embrace of God. T, I promise to try to respect and stay out of your marriage, as long as you recognize that, in a way, you’ve gotten kind of a package deal. God bless and love you both – Cheers."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

W + T's wedding!

Although I'm fairly confident that all of the readers of this blog are also our friends on facebook (and in real life), I figured I'd post a few pictures of the wedding just in case someone out there is curious and hasn't seen them yet. Here goes!

(Note: all credit for these photos goes to our wonderful and fabulous family friend and photographer extraordinaire, Kathleen!)

The beautiful "cake buffet" that our mom envisioned and executed. She baked 15 homemade almond cakes with white chocolate buttercream icing, plus three carrot cakes with cream cheese icing, plus the actual wedding cake itself. Beautiful and delicious!

Mom also made these giant grape vine balls to hang in the tree, in the place of a trellis, which was deemed typical and boring.

She also made all of the bouquets... Here's the start of the ceremony pics!

W listening to one of the readings.

A moment of prayer.

The kiss!

Woo hoo!

The bridal party FINALLY enjoying some paletas - homemade popscicles brought in from W and T's favorite spot in Nashville!

Excited to be married!

Pre- Garter toss.

Those are just a few of the many, many pictures that were taken throughout the weekend. As I'm sure you can see, it was an absolutely beautiful day and glorious celebration of love between W and T, and that of our awesome God who brought them together!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Regarding W's wedding

For those of you who have recently started reading this blog, you may feel a little betrayed to know that W actually isn't married... yet. She will be tomorrow, but not yet as of today. We're leaving to go to the rehearsal in approximately 25 minutes, and while everyone else runs around downstairs like mad women, I'm upstairs blogging away. Oops?

I have a couple of thoughts swirling around my head regarding the wedding and the whole W-being-married and me-being-very-single thing, as can probably be expected. And while I've had my periods of being VERY excited, and my periods of being moderately depressed, I can confidendly say that the reigning emotion I feel since getting home about a day and a half ago has been gratitude for God's grace in giving me singleness right now. That seems strange and even almost unbelievable coming from me. But it really has been a gift, and here's why:

W's whole relationship and engagement to T has fallen on VERY bad timing for me. Here's a brief rundown:

-W and T started dating approximately three weeks after my 8th and final breakup to Mr. Class clown in 2009.
-W and T got engaged exactly 4 days after my breakup with Mr. Sleepyhead in 2010.
-W had her bachelorette party exactly 3 days after my breakup with Mr. Maturity about 2 and a half months ago.

Needless to say, all of these big marriage milestones have been largely bittersweet for yours truly. I feel bad about this. I know that W has carried with her for nearly all of her relationship and engagement the burden of not trying to be too happy or too excited about her situation given the frequent opposite nature of mine. It makes me a little sad that for most of the milestones I literally couldn't share in her joy. It is what it is.

However, as I participate in this wedding weekend, I find myself strangely kind of thrilled that I'm undamaged these days. I realize that I would MUCH rather be here alone today and tomorrow, than face all the mushy gushy marriage feelings with someone who is not right by my side. I am deeply relieved and grateful to not have W's wedding photos be a graveyard of another relationship of mine that might fail. Glad I don't have her wedding memories tied up with what may have become ex-boyfriend memories, too.

I'm totally confident that God is purposeful in keeping me "very single" for this big event in W&T's life, but also in mine. I wish I knew what the purpose is... but I'm okay being not quite sure for now. Maybe it's because my husband is actually one of W and T's Jesus-loving male friends who will also be attending? (That's what W would have me believe! ha!) At one point I thought it was because super-cute William from the Bachelorette lives in Galloway, Oh... the site of the wedding. Maybe I'd run into him!? (Now that I've seen his true colors, I'm happy to walk away from that one lol). Maybe it's because God has my secret hubby somewhere around the corner and for whatever reason it's not the right time yet. Maybe God just wanted me to enjoy the wedding weekend with no drama and no regrets. In any case, I'm just fine with it.

W will likely not be posting for a while, while she skips across the Caribbean for two weeks in wedded bliss... looks like you just have to get used to me! haha I will do my best to put up pictures and write a thorough wedding update once I have a second!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

M's Baptism!

I mentioned in a recent post that I got baptized just a few days ago (okay, about 17 days ago)… it was a phenomenal experience! Before I write on and on about it, I want to share with you the video testimony that I made two weeks before the actual baptism. If you remember from my post about fear, this video played on the jumbo-tron for all to see, while I got situated in the baptismal pool. Remember how fearful and nervous I was about making this video? Of seeming stupid or tripping over my words or not effectively communicating God’s righteous works in my life? Well, you can judge for yourself, but I think my fears were unfounded. One of my good friends is the baptism coordinator/brilliant producer/editor of this clip… she did a great job! It turned out to be fantastic, if I do say so myself! (When you click the link, click twice on the arrow to the right of the three big pictures and it'll scroll to mine. Click on my picture and the video pops up!)

There you have it… my big day! It’s wonderful to have a copy of it to keep forever and show whomever I want to show it to in the future. Nice touch!

Since it all happened, I’ve been reflecting a bit on the experience and what it meant to me, to God and to others. I have a couple of thoughts…

First is that, honestly, I didn’t emerge from the pool feeling at all different from when I entered the pool… I mean, minus being a little cold and soaking wet. I didn’t wake up the next day to fireworks or lightening flashes… I’m not even sure that I feel any closer to God today than I did three weeks ago. At first this concerned me… I thought to myself “Um, okay… did that baptism not count or something? Why do I feel the same? I got full-body dunked!” Then it occurred to me… I think I should feel the same. Because, really, nothing necessarily changed in my heart or spiritual life the day I got baptized. My salvation was assured long before I was submerged… my relationship with Christ began some time ago… my heart was changed in the decision-making to do it, not necessarily in the doing of it. While baptism is a great and powerful statement of faith in Christ, it’s public nature making it an effective tool of Christian witness… it’s still nothing more than an act of obedience. And baptism doesn’t save. Obedience doesn’t save. Faith saves… Jesus saves. Getting dunked into a tub full of water doesn’t change that equation.

My second thought is that I hope and pray that God used and continues to use my testimony to reach some of His children. Truth time: I’ve always felt that my testimony is a little lame. Let’s face it… lots of people’s testimonies could be turned into big-screen blockbusters: the drugs! The sex! The saving power of Christ! Not mine. Nope. Boooooooring. There are times when I’ve thought that I’d be able to do more for Christ if I just had a moderately more exciting story to tell. It is what it is… and my hope is that maybe there was someone in the crowd who was lost like I was lost. The sneaky kind of lost that let’s the world tell you that you are, in fact, headed in just the right direction and doing a great job at it. My hope is that God can use my “boring” testimony to convince someone out there that we all need saved from ourselves… that we all have different breeds of self-destruction, whether it looks good or bad from the outside.

Lastly, if my aforementioned hope turns out unfulfilled (not that I’ll ever know one way or the other), I’m still 10000% confident that God called me to baptism, that I made the right choice to do it, and that God used it in my life for a purpose. I have been joking with friends that the whole process was such a great experience I would do it again and again if I could! Seriously, though. When I was standing in that pool, God granted me the precious gift of being able to see myself as His new creation. I cannot adequately express how overwhelmingly meaningful it was to me, to be able to see myself on film – a new, healthy, whole, happy, strong, faithful version of myself, and yet think back upon the old, sick, broken, empty, unhappy me that came out of that period of trial I mention in the video. Old me is a memory not quickly forgotten; the sheer terror at living each day physically, mentally, and spiritually unrecognizable to my own self is something that lingers in the back of my mind. And yet, what unspeakable joy to reflect upon how far God has brought me! My smile as I was watching the video, I swear, was the size of Texas. My heart was overflowing as I watched myself and it hit me like a ton of bricks: God is good. He delivered me. He healed me. He redeemed my past. He will continue…

Certainly these truths are not new to me. I’ve rested on them time and time again in the last couple of years. However, I was never more sure of them than when I was waist-deep in the water. I am confident that that’s exactly how God means it to be.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Quite the vague title, huh? I feel like the general topic of sin can go in a million different directions-- what is sin, is this (insert any number of actions or non-actions here) a sin, why do we sin, how can we stop ourselves from sinning, how does our sin affect others... the questions are endless.

My thoughts (W here) are flowing from a recent realization that I had while working through a summer Bible study workbook that I received at church.

The realization? I don't spend nearly enough time thinking about my own sin.

For as often as I feel guilt, anxiety, shame, and any number of other negative emotions, I hardly ever relate these emotions as being indicative of my own sin.

And I've realized that this is a problem because sin serves a unique purpose in our lives-- to continually bring us back to God when we recognize our own shortcomings and our inability to live righteous lives apart from Him. Our interactions with God regarding sin should follow a pretty obvious, Biblical pattern-- we take ownership of our sin, we acknowledge our need for forgiveness, we ask for forgiveness, and we are forgiven. It is through this pattern that we are set free from both the sin itself and the negative feelings listed above that often accompany sin.

When I was completing the Bible study this week, I was rather horrified to realize that I couldn't remember the last time I actively asked for forgiveness from the Lord. I realized that every day in which I simply tack on, "And please forgive me for my sins, amen," during the last 5 seconds of my prayers I am forfeiting the healing that God wants to give me. After all, His forgiveness isn't for Him-- it's for me. He doesn't want me to ask for forgiveness for His sake, but for my own.

Problem number two: In my own vanity, I couldn't really think of anything sinful that I had done recently. RIDICULOUS. I know in my heart and my head that I am an incredibly sinful person, and in that moment I felt like I was back in 2nd grade in the confessional muttering, "Well...I lied to my sister today." So I started thinking and praying for the Lord to help me to be aware of my sin. Because if you're not aware of your sin, then you are not aware of the ways in which your sin is controlling or destroying areas of your life.

And this, too, goes back to a pride issue. First, because I want to think of myself as a good person, as someone who does the right thing most of the time, as a less-sinful person than compulsive liars or shoplifters or cheaters. And second, because I am too fearful of my own inability to conquer the sin once it is identified and I decide to start fighting it. This was a sad realization indeed, because it shows my own lack of faith in myself and in the Lord who has proven He can conquer anything-- even death itself.

Know that this post doesn't wrap up nicely. I don't have any 5-step plans or pieces of advice on how to get on track with acknowledging and confessing your sin. I hope that maybe this post will remind you, like my Bible study reminded me, that our sin is a gift that God uses to bring us renewal, and that this renewal can only come if we acknowledge our need for it and ask for it.