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?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Peter, the "Rock" - by M

Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope y'all had a blessed and wonderful Christmas surrounded by loving family and friends. What a gift!

You know you're a slacker blogger when you cannot remember the last time you posted OR the last thing you posted about. Yikes! For today, I'll share a small tidbit that I have been thinking about recently.

For a long time I've been interested in the story of Peter. I loved learning more about him and Paul on our trip to Rome this past summer, and I love reading about him over and over in the Gospels, too. I think that what I enjoy about Peter is just how relatable he is. Peter is just so normal and so human. While we all are created in the same image from which Jesus was begotten, it's easier to see ourselves in Peter than it is in Him. Why?

Because Peter's sin is on display for all to see throughout all four gospels. He is nothing short of a hot mess... Jesus famously refers to him as "you of little faith" (Matthew 14:31) after he flails about, terrified of drowning when Jesus asks him to come out to him, walking on the water. Later, Peter directly contradicts Jesus' prophecy that he will be killed by the chief priests, to which Jesus declares "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." (Matthew 16:23) At another time during his ministry with Jesus, Peter is one of the few disciples found by Jesus to be arguing about who of them will be the greatest (Luke 9:46-50) and before that he's among the group that blindly asks Jesus how He will feed the four thousand... days after they witnessed Him miraculously feed the five thousand (Mark 8:4). On top of that, we see Peter angrily taking a sword against Jesus' captors upon His arrest (John 18:10) and, of course, his denial of Jesus three times before His crucifixion (John 18:15-27).

I love the story of Peter because I see myself in Peter. A quick glance through the Gospels reveals Peter's fear, his pride, his lack of faith, his anger, his self-reliance, and more. And yet, we see Jesus say of him, "...you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18) And again (after the resurrection) Jesus "reinstates" Peter, naming him the keeper of all of God's "lambs" and "sheep," for which Christ is the Good Shepherd (John 21:15-18). Peter is truly the embodiment of God's grace and forgiveness of us... of how God often has much more faith in us than we do in Him.

I've historically been amazed that Jesus calls Peter His "rock" after He has witnessed so many of Peter's failings and sins. It's crazy that Jesus chooses this man to lead the charge after He is gone. It seems hard to believe, doesn't it?

Yet, I read something recently that has given me a new perspective on all this, and it's in the very beginning of the Gospel of John:

"Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter)." (John 1: 25-42).

You see, I had always been so amazed that Jesus declared Peter His "rock" after He had seen just how sinful Peter could be. Yet, by this account, Jesus actually speaks this over Peter beforehand. Jesus looked at him, and the first words He says in their very first meeting is "you will be called 'rock'" (which the footnotes verify is the translation of both Cephas - Aramaic and Peter - Greek). Amazing.

Even though we all know that God exists outside of linear time, that He is omniscient, and that our works have nothing to do with His salvation, it's still easy to fall prey to thinking about God in these terms. It's easy to think that Jesus met Peter, Jesus got to know Peter, Jesus was disappointed in Peter, Jesus was good and forgave him anyway, and Jesus decided that Peter would be the foundation of the church. It's easy to think that we relate to God in the same way. And yet, we see through this story of Peter that God doesn't operate that way. Jesus meets Peter and He already knows him. He already knows the ways in which Peter will fail Him and the ways in which Peter will glorify Him. And it's not about what Peter does or doesn't do... it's about what Jesus did, in naming him "rock," long before he would ever prove himself worthy or unworthy of bearing that name.

It's a great reminder for all of us that God knows us outside of what we do and don't do. Just like Peter, God meets us where we are and asks us to follow Him, and if we do, He has a name for us, too. It is "perfect." It is "forgiven." And it is ours outside of how worthy or unworthy we are of it. Praise the Lord!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Grace, by M

So, W has been totally dropping the ball lately on updating this blog... which is annoying to me because I'm the one busy and working every night on wedding stuff! Perhaps this public shaming will motivate her to get back with it.

Anyway, per my last post... I've been thinking about grace a lot lately. I think this is because relationships (and dare I say engagement and marriage in particular) have a unique way of showing you just how much you need it. One of me and my fiance's favorite pastors is Tommy Nelson from Denton Bible Church, who did an awesome marriage sermon series several years ago on Song of Solomon. (Seriously, go download it for free on iTunes... now!). Anyway, in one of the sermons, Tommy says that being sinful and being single is like one hand clapping... you have faults and issues but you just don't know it yet. Preparing for marriage and being married means that all of a sudden your sin has something to "clap against"... and it becomes suddenly much more obvious what all of your issues are. I'm beginning to think that this is true.

And I'm not talking about all these big, dramatic things... just small realizations of "man, I guess I really am selfish" or "maybe I do have a lot of pride" etc etc because all of these things start meeting resistance... they start getting in the way. This is part of the beauty and purpose marriage, so it's not necessarily bad, just the name of the game, I suppose. All of this to say... I'm learning a lot about grace these days.

Earlier this week I read a post from one of the blogs that I regularly follow... it has haunted me ever since. Here's what it said:

"William Kitchens was executed in 2000 for the rape and murder of Patricia Webb.
These were his final words:
I just don’t know how to tell y’all I am sorry for what I did. There is no way for expressing I am sorry. I just hope that in some kind of way that y’all can move on and find peace in your life.

The Lord has given me peace and that is all that I pray for is that y’all can find that peace. I just want you to know that I am sorry for what I done. I can’t change that, all I can do is say I am sorry, that’s nothing for what I have done. I can’t replace your loss. I am sorry. I just want you to know that I love all of y’all. It’s been a pleasure, y’all just keep on with life, it’s gonna be good. The Lord’s gonna be with us.

If it’s alright, I just want to say a prayer first. Father, God, I just thank you for the time that you have given me on this earth, for having mercy on somebody like me for all the despicable thing’s I’ve done in my life, Father, but you still with your love and your mercy reach down into my heart and changed it before it’s too late.

I ask that you bestow peace upon the family of Patricia Webb, that you let them know, Father, that you are in a place where they can obtain that peace, and you will help them move on in their life, Father. Help them, Father, to find it in their hearts, not for my sake , but for yours, and their sake to, Father, find it in their heart to forgive me for what I have done.

Father, I just ask that you be with my family and comfort them to move on Father. Father, we are all here today for the mistake that I have made and I thank you for your mercy for sending your Son into this life, that we might come to know you, Father. Father, I pray for these Wardens and the officers and the people that deal with all of this, Father, I ask that you touch their hearts, Father, and if there is any wrong to it, that you will forgive them, Father. Just let them know that you love them, Father, and that You are the way. I just thank you and in Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen. I love y’all, y’all take care. I am so sorry.
My prayer is that all of us will remember just how desperately in need of grace we are.  We need forgiveness as much as William Kitchens.  We need radical mercy." - http://www.fabsharford.com/final-words-of-a-man-like-me/
I just cannot get this story out of my head.  I think it's because I can't believe how much faith this guy had on his dying day (literally). I can't get over how confident he was that God had forgiven him, that God did love him regardless of his actions, and that he could find peace and comfort in God's grace. It is an incredible story of incredible faith! And, if I'm honest with myself, it's also a bit convicting. When I fail and when I fall, do I accept God's grace or do I wallow in guilt and shame? Do I proclaim the good news of forgiveness and mercy or do I spend my energy feeling bad and beating myself up?

I want to take a cue from this man... a murderer beloved and redeemed by an awesome God. Amazing.