May 27, 2010

I Choose Us

(Note: originally posted May 2009)

The Family Man is one of my favorite sappy movies. Sure, it practically drips saccharin in some scenes, but beyond all the sweetness it's a story of true love and commitment. Tea Leoni's character, Kate, has faced life's surprises and disappointments and finds herself far from where she'd planned. Still, she tells her husband Jack that, through it all, "I choose us."

16 years ago today, I was a young know-it-all bride. Sure of myself. Sure of my man and his love for me. Sure that life would take us wherever we wanted to go.

Older and wiser, I've realized that I don't know it all, and that even the surest human love can be shaken and doubted. Life hasn't always taken us where we'd expected to go. I've also learned that marriage is a lot more difficult than I ever dreamed it would be.

Still, I choose us.

Through times of plenty and times of want...I choose us.

Through the agony of infertility and the despair of a miscarriage...I choose us.

Through the birth of our beautiful daughter and the trenches of parenthood...I choose us.

Through family drama and heartache...I choose us.

Through a cancer diagnosis and the death of loved ones...I choose us.

Through surgeries and illnesses...I choose us.

Through sin, confession, and forgiveness...I choose us.

Sitting in our favorite restaurant, the bleachers, a roller coaster, or on the church pew...I choose us.

Getting lost in Florida, Tennessee, Maryland, or anywhere in between...I choose us.

From the heights of the Eiffel Tower to the depths of the caves in Champagne, on the streets of New York, Boston and Annapolis...I choose us.

Atop a mountain of laundry and under a stack of bills...I choose us.

Whether in a tiny apartment or in the home we've built together...I choose us.

During mission trips to Texas, Mississippi, New Jersey, and soon to be Peru...I choose us.

Even though it's not how I pictured it 16 years ago...I still choose us.

Our wedding invitation began with the words of Shakespeare: My love hath in't a bond, whereof the world takes note. That day, I was certain that our bond would be noteworthy...that our marriage would be a testimony to perfect love. And it is. Not mine. Not R's. God's.

A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. - Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NASB)

May 26, 2010

A Losing Battle

"Do you fight a lot?"

The last question from the girls.

No, not really. Rarely, even.

It's true now. In that first year, that year of learning each other and making two into one, scared of losing our individuality and independence. Oh yeah...we fought.

In the years that followed, typical marital spats arose. One topic always stirred the anger. R would avoid it, but I foolishly jumped on it every chance I could. Beating it to death, only to resurrect it and start all over again. In God's grace and mercy have I been able to walk away from it. Finally, I have enough security in Him, in this marriage He's put together, and in the love for me He's placed inside my man's heart that I can leave it alone.

In the process, I've learned a powerful truth.

Many things are worth fighting for.

Many things are worth fighting against.

Few things are worth fighting about.

Joe: You know, sometimes I wonder...
Kathleen: What?
Joe: Well... if I hadn't been Fox Books and you hadn't been The Shop Around the Corner, and you and I had just, well... met...
Kathleen: I know.
Joe:  Yeah. I would have asked for your number, and I wouldn't have been able to wait twenty-four hours before calling you and saying, "Hey, how about... oh, how about some coffee or, you know, drinks or dinner or a movie... for as long as we both shall live?"
Kathleen: Joe...
Joe: And you and I would have never been at war. And the only thing we'd fight about would be which video to rent on a Saturday night.
Kathleen: Well, who fights about that?
Joe: Well, some people. Not us.
Kathleen: We would never.

May 25, 2010

Fiery Love

More questions from the girls.

"Has it been hard?"

Oh my, yes.

I searched for words to adequately describe the work required in a marriage. The tremendous effort. The sacrifice. The death of most expectations harbored in a teenage girl's heart. Knowing their limited life experience would give no point of reference, I let the cliche' Marriage is hard work tumble past my lips.

They didn't get it. They won't until they're in my shoes, looking back at a commitment that's lasted for most of my adult life. Marveling at God's grace. Knowing there's no way we would be standing here without Him.

Yes, there are still goosebumps and winks and stolen kisses. There is laughter and passion and respect. There is also foolishness and selfishness and pride. We may be perfect for each other, but we are far from perfect. We are sinners, this man I love and I.

I read the words of Zechariah, and I see the picture of us.

In the whole land, declares the LORD,
two thirds shall be cut off and perish,
and one third shall be left alive.
And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, 'They are my people';
and they will say, 'The LORD is my God.'"
-Zechariah 13:8-9 (ESV)

We are a marriage of three. He, me and Him.  The three of us work together, carving away everything that isn't Him. It is a painful, arduous work that won't be finished. Not here.

As two individuals are cut away, the remnant is placed in the fire. Melded together in the furnace, a far better offering. In the scorching fire, our parched throats cry out to Him. We plead for deliverance. We praise His Name.

At just the moment when we can bear the heat no more, He tenderly pulls us out. He wipes off the soot. Allows us to rest, cool. Then with the love of a Father, He gently begins carving again.

holy experience

May 24, 2010

The Start of Our Anniversary Week

"Hey, you've got an anniversary Saturday."

"How many years?"

This, from the girls in my Sunday School class.

Yes, I do. It's 17.



"That's neat."

As he and I say, it's crazy cool. 

"Awww..." (again)

In fact, he told me the other day that he's just as excited to be married to me now as he was 17 years ago.

"That's crazy sweet."

And they melted.

Truth be told, so did I.

There's a poignant scene in 13 Going On 30 where the adult Jenna describes an evening with Matt to a group of teen girls. Even though she appears to be a grown woman, the girl inside is caught up in the romance of it all. She proudly displays her goosebumps to the girls hanging on her every word.

Sharing with the girls in my class, I felt much like Jenna. The 15 year-old me who desperately needed love and attention still lingers. Never did she dream she'd find the love of such a man.

Or that nearly 17 years later, he could still give me goosebumps.

My beloved is mine, and I am his. - Song of Solomon 2:16

May 21, 2010

A Period of Adjustment

One week into our new life, we ache from all the adjusting and stretching going on. Some is welcome. Some is painful. All is for our good.

We cautiously feel our way around this new place, discovering things we forgot about each other and ourselves. Perhaps we never knew them.

Doubts hover just below the surface. Is this really happening? Are we actually doing this?

The combination of anxiety-tinged nerves and preteen angst have caused tongues to lash out more easily. Apologies have been just as swift. Grace abounds in this period of adjustment.

The budget is tighter, pinching. Afraid one concession will lead to another, I plot and plan and pray there won't be an ensuing riot.

Quiet time with a good book is harder found. My sin-sick heart is too readily disappointed at this development. 

My soul craves routine. Wonders if our lives will be routine again. I find myself surprisingly satisfied to think they may not be.

How wonderfully strange it is to come home from work, to my people who have begun dinner preparations. Mealtime discussions include a question we ask each night. Where did you see God today? The responses as different as the responders.

With the school year winding down, we find time to examine the garden and play and laugh.

These days are different.



Empty of some things.

Overflowing with others.

Marked by the One called Faithful and True.

Keep on believing...because as a child of God, it is just who you are. - Nancy Guthrie Hoping for Something Better: Refusing to Settle for Life as Usual

May 17, 2010


Three weeks of blogging every day, counting down the end of a life that is now ended, has left me dry. As we step into our new life, my parched soul needs replenishing, refreshing.

I'll be back in a few days to start memorializing this new life with all its ups and downs, twists and turns, and the One constant. Faithful is He.

In the meanwhile, these words are never far from my mind.

You're starting over now
Under the sun
You're stepping forward now
A new life has begun
Your new life has begun

And there's only grace
There's only love
There's only mercy and believe me…it's enough
Your sins are gone
Without a trace
And there's nothing left now
There's only grace…

~"Only Grace" by Matthew West

May 14, 2010

The Final Step, The First Step

(You'll be completely lost if you don't read Part I, Part II, Part III & Part IV)

News of R's pending unemployment crashed over me, a tidal wave of grief and despair. The force broke the chains of bondage R had wrestled with for so long. He was walking away, yet maddeningly unsure of his steps. I selfishly denied him time to gain his strength, to heal. His trepidation fueled my need for control.

I plotted and planned, wheels spinning and getting us nowhere. Exhausted and spent, I finally gave up.

And my sweet husband started to smile again.

I could only hang my head in shame. I'd allowed my dreams to crowd out his. I'd put myself first and stifled him in the process. I'd been unwilling to sacrifice my comfort for his.

I was heartbroken. Amazed that my husband and my Savior could still love me, knowing there was nothing beautiful about my ambition, pride, and selfishness.

We wanted a new, different life.  With no clear direction on how to get there, we resigned ourselves to waiting on the Lord.  For a woman who likes to know, it was excruciating. All I could do was pray.

I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.
~Psalm 40:1-3 (ESV)

With great joy, awe and humility, I'm happy to announce that our wait is over. After 17 years of wandering, of pursuing what we thought best for our lives, God has given us a way to go back to the beginning.

This fall, R returns to college. The same university as when we married.

It astounds me how God has used the past two years to prepare our hearts.  Too merciful to allow us to wander anymore, He has ended our self-directed detour. Granted us a fresh start.  (Except, as CJ quickly reminds us, we now have our fantastic daughter.) We are also older, wiser, more willing & ready to submit to His leadership.

Whenever R talked about returning to school, I tuned him out. There was no way we could afford it. By God's grace, we don't have to. Oh, He is good!

Today is the last day of our old life, the one we chose for our own comfort. Where this new road goes from here, I honestly don't know. But I'll be holding His hand, and my dear husband's, all the way.

(P.S. - I'm allowing comments so that you can praise the Lord with me!)

May 13, 2010

Final Steps: Part IV

(To catch up, read Part I, Part II & Part III first.)

If it's possible to test God's patience to the limit, I did. He finally pried my hands from my ears so that I could hear Him speak about the hurt I was inflicting upon my husband and my daughter, and even myself.  He told me enough was enough. He started weeding my heart.

My oft-chronicled journey toward peace & simplicity commenced. I learned to let go of things, except one. I was still hiding the key to R's chains in my pocket, clutching it until my knuckles were white. Every time he mentioned breaking free, I assured him we were where God wanted us.

Isn't that what the Israelites thought about Egypt?

I was standing my ground. Little did I know God was about to pull the rug out from under me.

(We'll finish up next time, I promise!)

May 12, 2010

Final Steps: Part III

(You can't just jump into this series. Read Part I and Part II first.)

As the years passed, R would occasionally rebel against the bondage of his employment. I endeavored to convince him that we were in the promised land. I had already convinced myself. I was bold and tireless in my manipulations.

Untended weeds spread quickly, almost imperceptibly.

The new home was no longer new. I knew it would be impossible to change it into what I wanted. Even if we did, it wasn't where I wanted. Why not put R's carpentry skills to use? I reasoned.

We found the lot and the house plan. Sold the home that had seen two young people fight for their marriage, grieve the loss of a child and a father, and welcome a baby girl into the world. We crammed all the stuff into a tiny apartment where we spent the next 18 months navigating the obstacle course of boxes containing our old life. Boxes waiting for our new life were soon stacked among them.

We poured the foundation of our house and cemented R's future in a job he despised.

But God...

May 11, 2010

Final Steps: Part II

(If you haven't read Part I, do so here)

A bigger home needs more stuff.

A sinful heart will rationalize anything to get what it wants.

More stuff isn't free. Despite the beauty of R's craftsmanship, a carpenter's salary  wasn't going to finance all the stuff we had to have. The answer was clear, at least to me. I wasn't subtle in my attempts to persuade my husband that gaining a job at the paper mill would give us the life we deserved. He submitted himself to the long process of application and testing. We were so happy when he was finally called for an interview. The day he was hired was cause for celebration. We were giddy with anticipation of a better life.

R was the first to feel the chains. He began to resent a job that didn't allow him to use his God-given talents and required him to work ridiculous hours. He grew restless. His conversations were peppered with words of another career path. He was eager to shake the dust of the current one from his shoes. He talked of unpacking those school books.

And I? I was comfortable. I didn't hand him the key to his chains. I simply cleansed the wounds caused by his resistance, washing them with my words instead of the Word. Occasional bandages kept us from having to examine the depth of the cuts.

The weeds that had grown in my heart appeared to be beautiful blossoms, but they were choking the life out of my husband's dreams.

To be continued...

May 10, 2010

Final Steps: Part I

Three weeks ago, I started counting down the days until R's employment ends. His schedule changed, leaving only 5. God's direction came just in time. I want nothing more than to shout it from the rooftops. Tell you all about it. And I will. To understand these final steps in our old life, I need to take you back to the beginning of our life together...

When R & I married, I was six months into a new job. He was a part-time carpenter and part-time student. We lived in a small apartment filled with hand-me-down furniture and wedding gifts. Friday night Chinese food and a rented movie was our weekly splurge.

One day, we decided to tour the homes R's boss was constructing. Beautiful, I thought. I'd love to have a house like this.

After that we spent many Saturdays visiting different houses, each watering the seeds of envy and discontent growing in my heart.

A few months later R's boss offered us a great price on a house he was just starting. Our mortgage would be little more than our monthly rent. A good investment, we said. Paint colors and carpet samples consumed my thoughts. I wanted our first home to be perfect.

Meanwhile, R was realizing that being a husband, a part-time employee and a part-time student (at a university an hour away) was no piece of cake. He eagerly accepted an offer to work full-time and packed up his school books.

Seven months later, we moved into our new home. Those seeds of envy and discontent, quietly resting under the surface, soon found company in pride and greed. When they burst forth, I didn't recognize them for the weeds that they were. Instead of yanking them out by their roots, I searched for ways to nurture them.

 To be continued...

May 7, 2010


Months ago, the Lord directed us to stop. To wait. Such a hard thing to do, impossible without his grace. These days of waiting, of not knowing, have been a strong reminder of  John 15:5 and the unfathomable depth of my need of Him.

My Father often speaks to me in acronyms. For this season, With All, I Trust.

Did I?

Could I?

Would I?

Daily, sometimes hourly, I've cried out to God. The burden of the wait, and the trusting in the wait, has been heavy. Tears have come when words wouldn't. It's been a season of glimpses, of being upheld by believing God is faithful even when I wasn't quite sure I believed.

In the past few weeks, my body has tensed in anticipation of His arrival.

Today, at last, He has come. The map of our future in his nail-scarred hands, unfurled past "You are Here"

It's time to move.

It will be said on that day,
"Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
~Isaiah 25:9 (ESV)

May 6, 2010


Continuing in Lamentations...

"The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
therefore I will hope in him."
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
~Lamentations 3:24-26

Notes from my ESV Study Bible:

wait for him - Not passive, listless sitting, but faithful serving until God acts.

wait quietly - In a posture of prayer and expectation.

There, in his Word, I once again find strength. The Truth penetrates the marrow of my bones, encouraging and equipping me to do the hard thing.


May 5, 2010


It's a fresh start, a friend says.

A Fresh Start.

Yes, it is. And I like it.

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ~Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

May 4, 2010


Hands raised.

Heart filled.

My Jesus, My Savior.
Lord, there is none like You.

I am overcome by my need to worship Him.

Are you?

The thought pushes its way into my consciousness. I am reminded of that woman I identify with most...the one who went seeking water in the heat of the day, avoiding the shame that was heaped on her head. And the Living Water meets here there. Just before He proclaims his identify, He declares

"...But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." ~ John 4:23-24 (ESV)

And I ask myself Do I worship the God of the Bible? Or is it the god I envision, the one I want to believe in?

The gospel reveals eternal realities about God that we would sometimes rather not face. We prefer to sit back, enjoy our cliches, and picture God as a Father who might help us, all the while ignoring God as a Judge who might damn us. Maybe this is why we fill our lives with the constant drivel of entertainment in our culture - and in the church. We are afraid that if we stop and really look at God in his Word, we might discover that he evokes greater awe and demands deeper worship than we are ready to give him.

Oh, God! I want to worship You for who You truly are. You are too great to be reduced to the god of my imagination, to mighty to be held into my concepts of You. May I worship You in spirit and in truth, my Sovereign Lord.

May 3, 2010


The worst pains we experience are not those of the suffering itself but of our stubborn resistance to it, our resolute insistence on our independence. ~ Elisabeth Elliott, Keep a Quiet Heart

After taking this step, I wholeheartedly agree.

May 2, 2010


What God is bringing you through is preparation for what He's taking you to.

Paraphrase from Dr. B. Courtney McBath

May 1, 2010


My nerves are raw, stretched so far they threaten to shred. Veins tight, at the ready to explode. Today, I grasp the meaning of "jump right out of my skin". I can think of no words more appropriate.

I am tired of the waiting.

Exhausted by the waiting.

So OVER the waiting.

And yet, we wait.

Today I want to kick and scream and demand an answer. Truth be told, I have.

And still the waiting.

No news is not good news. It's nothing but the agony of one more day without an answer. Without knowing. Without being able to move. My muscles ache, sore from staying in this one place for so long.  I am ready to leap in whatever direction He calls. If He would just call.

Today, exercising patience has never felt more like work.