Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Happy summer, everyone! Or, "happy summer!" to anyone who still reads this. I'm thinking that between W and my lack of activity on the site and Google Reader's imminent shut-down, our readership may be next to nothing here soon. Not that that is all that bothersome to me.

I was thinking this morning of getting on here today to officially close the blog... at least saying something related to closure before W and I proceed to never write again. That's slightly better than all the other blogs that just die a long, slow death due to negligence, right? I hate the idea of being one more blogger that just never blogs... and yet, I'm also not sure that I want to get rid of this thing entirely. It had a good run for about two years and it captured some seriously significant times in both of our lives. In fact, I spent much of this morning reading through some previous posts and it was both meaningful and enjoyable to do so. So, after some thought, I've decided that I'll keep the blog around and just assume that I'm the only one who reads it. That takes some of the pressure off, right? That way I can just post when I want and not worry about it the other times. It also eliminates the obligatory "wow, I can't believe how much time has passed!" introductions. Moreover, it's pretty obvious that W is checked out, since the seven of the last eight posts have been mine. Her husband stops working 120 hours a week and all of a sudden she acts like she's too busy enjoying married life to blog! Psh! haha But in all seriousness, I don't mind continuing to run this thing on my own, even if that means I only update once a quarter. I suppose that's better than nothing!

Anyway, I've been thinking lately about blessing and contentment. My new husband and I continue to enjoy a period of great blessing; in fact, just about every single thing that could possibly go our way over the past year... has. It's been rich and sweet and joyful and overwhelming and awesome. We honestly could not be happier or more full of joy. I wish every newlywed could say the same of their engagement/wedding/honeymoon/new marriage.

And yet, I've found myself plagued throughout the past year with this continual discomfort. It's like I truly do not know what to do with myself under these circumstances. I have alternated between feeling guilty (ie: how can I enjoy all of this blessing when I know other people who are so miserable right now?), fearful (ie: when is all of this going to come crashing down?), and inadequate (ie: should I be serving more, sacrificing more, praying more, etc? Should I force myself into a season of want so I depend on God more?). As you can see, it's been weird. And confusing. Churches and blogs and books do a pretty good job of giving us a guidebook for what the Christian life looks like when times are tough - cling to your faith, renew your mind, find joy in Christ, practice trust... and, honestly, I have experienced that and grown close to God by doing all those things. Yet, where is the guidebook for when things are great? What does the Christian life look like then?

I know that these feelings of guilt, fear, and inadequacy are not from God. God gives us gifts for our enjoyment. He gives us "time to laugh" and "time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:4). He gives us gifts that are meant to bring honor and glory to Him. Guilt, fear, and feelings of inadequacy are not of God but of the father of lies himself. And yet, how do I draw the line between enjoying my season of blessing, and yet being sensitive to those in need? Between appreciating these gifts but not clinging to them as idols that will destroy me if they are taken away? Between savoring the fruit of this joyful time without letting my comfort replace my need for God? It is a balancing act, and I fear that I've spent too much time worrying about getting it wrong.

This morning I decided that I would read some Psalms that have to do with God's blessing. It has finally occurred to me that maybe resting in the blessings is really all that I'm supposed to be doing right now. It occurred to me that feeling guilty or fearful or inadequate is not making me somehow holier, but instead just polluting a season that God has ordained to be nothing other than pure and sweet. So, I did a quick google search for Bible passages about blessing and was pointed to Psalm 34. In particular, verses 1-3 stood out to me:

"I will extol the Lord at all times; 
his praise will always be on my lips. 
My soul will boast in the Lord; 
let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together."

I even googled the definitions of extol and exalt to help me get the greatest clarity on this passage. Here's that translation:

"I will praise the Lord enthusiastically at all times; 
his praise will always be on my lips. 
My soul will boast in the Lord; 
let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us speak highly of his name together."

I just love what the passage has to say! It is not only righteous to praise the Lord amidst trial and tribulation, but it is also okay (heck, encouraged) to "boast in the Lord" in times of blessing. For some reason I've been fearful to praise God for all of this blessing because I don't want to sound spoiled or rub salt in the wound of anyone who may be struggling. And yet, look what this verse says - "let the afflicted hear and rejoice... let us exalt his name together." We are called to share our joys with the afflicted, not to brag or boast in ourselves, but to boast in the Lord's goodness. It should not be salt in the wound but actually salve for the wound; if the afflicted cannot find reason for praise within their circumstances, they can glorify the Lord in their praise of His goodness in the lives of others.

So now I am growing in confidence that it's okay to rest in these blessings. It's okay to share my joy with others and praise God openly for His awesome display of goodness in my life. So long as I boast in God's goodness, and not my own deservedness, I'm honoring Him and His blessings. I pray that, as long as this season continues, I will enjoy the blessings as gifts from a supremely loving God, steward them thoughtfully to serve and encourage others around me, and use them as a platform for praise. That is enough.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Beauty and Blessing, by M

I'm writing today as a married woman! Woo hoo! Actually, we've been married a little over a month now, which is crazy to think about. So many massive changes just in the last 33 days!

People have been asking me frequently about how married life is going and I tend to give them the same response - "It's been AWESOME! But of course, we were on the beach in paradise for half of it!" haha But, the reality is that while paradise (ie: French Polynesia) was awesome, marriage itself has been even more so. We are loving it and having the best, sweetest, richest time in these first few weeks. We could not feel more blessed or be more grateful... our cups are overflowing with goodness.

As I was reflecting on all of this during the honeymoon and trying to process how much has changed, I was reminded of a moment I had pretty much exactly three years earlier. In February/March of 2010, I was arguably at the lowest point of my adult life. Many of you know that story, so I'll spare the details here... but suffice it to say that I was totally and utterly broken. I didn't recognize myself physically, mentally, or emotionally. I ended up spending several months at home during that time to get back on my feet, and pretty much the week I got home, I was whisked off with my family to their pre-planned spring break trip to Mexico. It was a huge blessing. And during that trip I spent a lot of time reading, a lot of time eating (very much needed for me in those days!), and a lot of time sitting in this one hammock and looking out at the ocean and thinking. I remember gently swinging in that hammock and just thinking about how I wanted to trust in God's plan for me, but that I just didn't know how... because what I'd experienced of that plan so far was just too rough for my liking. I remember looking over the crystal water and knowing that God, who could make such beauty in this place, could certainly make my life beautiful, too. But how? When?

Over the next three years, time went by and my heart and body healed, and that moment faded into the background of a life that was becoming full. And I didn't think about it again as I moved to a new city and found new jobs, made new friends, went on dates with new people, and allowed God to remake me into a better version of who I was before. I became happy... I met my husband... and three years later I found myself in a hammock in French Polynesia, unable to do anything but marvel about how things have changed. In just a few years?!

I say all of this because I believe that if I could go back and talk to the young woman in the Mexican hammock, she probably wouldn't believe the story that I would have to tell her. It would seem probably like too much... too good to be true. Yet, that is my story. And it makes me want to shake myself (haha) and ask "why do I not have more faith!?" Why do I (even to this day) struggle with anxiety over the future when God has proven himself to be faithful? Not because He brought me a husband or He restored my health, but because He has written a story of redemption in my life... and He continues to do so each day. Even when you don't see it coming... even when it feels like the only direction you have been headed is down, God is moving in your life. He is worthy to be praised for that.

So, here is my praise for Him and the work He is doing in my life. And here is my challenge to myself and to others: you have no idea what God has cooking for you in the next three years. Trust Him. He is faithful.

 French Polynesia!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lord of the Storm, by M

Well, another month has passed... how quickly the time goes! I'm now only 16 days out from the wedding, so I can about guarantee that unless W finds some inspiration to post something, it'll be at least another month until I'm back on here. So much to do and so much will change in the next month!

Today I have had the unbelievable pleasure to take a personal "retreat day" and to spend some time reading, writing, praying, listening, and doing various other spiritual development activities. Our team at work holds each other accountable to take these days once a quarter, and it might seriously be my favorite part of my job. It is an incredible gift to be periodically forced to slow down and get reoriented in my faith and walk with God. This gift is even more appreciated in these ever-hectic days leading up to our wedding.

So, today I've read a few chapters of The Five Love Languages, listened to a sermon from Willow Creek's Intimate Encounters marriage conference, read through the whole book of Song of Solomon, and before the day is out I'll read and pray through the scripture options that my fiance and I have narrowed down for our ceremony. All these things will ensure I end up with a healthy and happy marriage, right?!

Just kidding on that. But seriously, I've been desperately trying to wrap my head around everything that has been happening lately. I normally pride myself (for better or worse) on being the kind of person that's always in control, always on top of things, always has the answers, always completes tasks before they're due, etc. Well, I had grand plans for being this way during engagement and let's just say that my reality these past few months has been... not that way. Perhaps if I had hired a wedding planner or was working only part-time or had an engagement longer than 6.5 months I'd be more successful at being the "wonder-bride" that I imagined myself to be?

In any case, the reality is that I've been doing the best I can and mostly just hanging on for dear life these last few months. And honestly, I've hated it... not the engagement itself, but feeling constantly like I'm dropping the ball, failing at everything, and letting people down. It is not the way that I prefer to operate.

Yet, I had a thought the other day that has really changed my perspective on this out-of-control environment that I'm living in. I was listening to one of my new favorite worship songs (called "Cornerstone" by Hillsong) and the first part of the chorus says this:

"Christ alone, Cornerstone
Weak made strong in the Savior's love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all." 

And it hit me... this season is a storm. I had never thought of it that way because, in my mind, the word "storm" implies some terrible disaster. I felt like illness or job loss or grief or heartbreak was grounds for a "storm"... not such a fun and exciting time as engagement. Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I recognized that these last couple of months have felt just like I'm caught in a tornado or hurricane. I literally feel like every day there are real, important parts of my past, current, and future circumstances just flying past my head... and I have little time or energy to try to grab at them. My world is spinning and changing at such a rate that I'm helpless to do much but try to stay safely in the eye of the storm and watch it all happen.

Yet, for some reason naming this season as the storm that it is has given me hope. It reminds me that Christ is the Lord of this storm and He is Lord of all these things that I have little power to control right now. Christ is Lord of my wedding day and Lord of my health and Lord of my marriage. He is Lord of my time and Lord of my living situation. He is Lord of all.

Moreover, He will be most glorified not through my futile attempts at being wonder-bride, but at my sitting down and trusting Him with my life right now. The more I'm able to just receive His blessings (without feeling like I need to work to deserve them) the more He shines as the gracious Giver and the One who loved first. You know?

So, I will continue to hold on for dear life for these next 16 days, but my attention is no longer turned towards what semblance of control I can keep in my grasp, but instead to whom it is I am ultimately clinging. I pray that in the process, His power will be made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). What more can I ask for?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Satisfied, by M

It's hard to believe that my last update was the day after Christmas... the holidays seem like light years ago! Time is flying these days!

While I'm grateful for all of the things going right now, it's also been, hands-down, one of the busiest and most stressful seasons of my life so far. Some days I literally can't even imagine what I did with my life before I had all of these added projects happening in my "free time." This craziness has caused me and my fiance to take a hard look at our schedules recently... it was really becoming too much to manage and we found ourselves sacrificing time and priorities that we know are too valuable to lose... time with friends, and more importantly, time with the Lord. It got me to thinking... how could I possibly de-prioritize something that I know is so important?

At the same time, I found myself reading through the book of Hosea. Lest you think I'm some Bible scholar who regularly peruses the minor prophets, I should admit that, honestly, I had been reading Daniel (which is very interesting and a great read) and when the book ended, my motivation went so far as to just keep reading what was next... which brought me to Hosea. I did do a very brief study of Hosea approximately 5 years ago with my college Bible study, but my knowledge of or interest in the book is pretty limited beyond that. I knew the whole metaphor thing (that being that God asks Hosea to take the prostitute Gomer as his wife to illustrate to the Israelites that they have been unfaithful to the Lord their God in the same way) but compared to the fiery furnace and lion's den sagas in the book of Daniel, Hosea just wasn't very captivating.

However, something that I've started to do recently is ask God to highlight something important in the scripture I'm reading. I send up a little prayer and hope with confidence that He'll bring something to my attention that I've never noticed before... even in books of the Bible like Hosea. So, I did that as I was reading through it and eventually I came to chapter 13, verse 6:

"When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me."

Of course, in this passage the Lord is speaking through Hosea about the Israelites. However, as I read that verse and let it sink into my heart, I realized that He is also speaking about me. Part of the reason that it's been relatively easy these days to de-prioritize my time with God is because I am satisfied right now. I have my family, my friends, a wonderful fiance, a job, health, financial resources, etc, etc... I am in a season (and don't get me wrong, I call this a "season" specifically because I know it does not last forever) where God has "fed" me abundantly. And, yet, thousands of years later, I am among those who have "become proud" and "forgotten" Him. Oof.

I love how direct God is in this verse... "they were satisfied... they became proud... they forgot about me." He anticipates our human tendency to receive blessings and then internalize them as something that we did or something that we control or something that we deserve. We sure are ego-centric aren't we? And yet, I find that to be true of myself. All of a sudden I'm in a stage of life where I don't find myself desperate for God because, in all honesty, many of my needs are being met by my current circumstances. I've "forgotten" God because most days, I'm not aware of my need for God. I am aware that I am full... not aware that I have been hungry. That is dangerous territory.

So, my prayer for myself and any others who may find themselves "satisfied" is that we do not forget who feeds us. My prayer is that we don't put our confidence so much in the gifts as in the Giver Himself.  As my pastor said a few weeks ago, why put our hope in riches (blessings of all kinds) when we can put our hope in He who richly blesses? Seasons will come and go, but the provision of the Lord will last forever. Let us not forget!

Thursday, January 10, 2013


So, M has been harassing me to write. And I can't blame her for that-- the purpose of this blog is supposed to be two sisters giving two different perspectives.

That said, after years of "having" to do certain things (mainly school work), I sometimes struggle to do things that I know I don't really HAVE to do but that others try to convince me that I have to do. I think this comes from many, many years of M telling me what to do all the time. She was (is?) definitely the bossier twin.

I've also struggled with feeling like I can't write here unless I have something "worthy" to say. I sometimes feel like my posts have to be enlightened and spiritual, and unless I can come up with a good "lesson" for the experience, it doesn't seem worth writing about.

I'm going to try and get out of this thought cycle, both because I do like to write and I've made somewhat of a commitment to write here, but also because I know that some of the most impactful blogs that I read feature mundane, straight-from-the-heart type of stuff.

Anyway, I've struggled a little, since moving to Nashville, with feeling purposeless. I don't think there's anything in particular that's making me feel this way. Rather, I think it's the lack of something (anything?) that's causing this general feeling. For years and years and years there was an obvious next step to work toward- a standardized test to master, a first kiss to anticipate, preparing for college and graduation...and even after that, making it through the 2 years of T's investment banking commitment, planning the wedding, moving here.

And now... things are good. We have good jobs and good health and a house and friends and warmer weather. But there's no next step. Obviously, having kids is the real next step, but we won't be headed down that road for probably two years. So for now, it kind of feels like I'm treading water. Like I'm in a holding cell, waiting to see what happens next. And I know that I DECIDE what happens next. But I'm not even sure what I want to happen next, and I'm not even sure when "next" will arrive or when it should be ushered in or what it will look like. I'm also not sure that it's healthy to always desire more and more and more than you have. What's the balance between striving for more and being content with what you have? I'm not sure.

Some days it feels like my car has stalled on a freeway. That after years and years of gaining momentum for bigger and better and newer and more exciting things that I've broken down in the land of routines,  of working and sleeping, working and sleeping, traffic and never knowing what to eat for dinner and laundry and more laundry. And why am I here when I don't even have kids yet?! Aren't these supposed to be my roaring 20s? Why am I not out dancing on tables or something?

So, that's where I am. Trying to find purpose and contentment in the here and now even if I can't really identify a larger goal that these actions are necessarily bringing me toward. Anyone else out there feel like this? Like you're treading water til you decide what the "next" will be?