January 27, 2011

A Question for You

The question has been swirling in my mind since I first heard an answer that doesn't quite fit. In the mad dash of getting ready for the day, I ask my man his thoughts. We are like-minded in our response. Are we grounded in truth in this?  Because that's all that really matters.

And so, I pose the question to you and ask for the Truth you are relying upon in your answer.  I intend to search the Scriptures on this myself, but your comments will be a great starting point for us all.

What is our purpose?

January 26, 2011

A Marriage Prayer Revisited

Give him boldness and wisdom to rebuke and exhort me when I am unfaithful to Your Word, when I neglect prayer, fail to redeem the time, speak carelessly, walk foolishly, fail to hope in You, seek great things for myself, become anxious about tomorrow. Do not let him cease praying for me when I am beset with the fear of man, the cares of the world, or the love of money.

I read. Close my eyes. Sigh. Open my eyes.

I re-read.


I want to pray. I do. My mind wants to make this prayer one of my heart. But my heart is desperately sick. It causes the hairs on the back of my neck bristle. It bucks against being tamed. It triggers the innate self-preservation mechanism.

Why should I make these words my own? How can he notice my sins and call them out? He's a sinner himself. He should examine the plank in his own eye before plucking out the speck in mine. There's absolutely no need to invite rebuke. Besides, he doesn't have the right...

I squeeze my eyes shut against the voice of the deceiver, the one who works to convince me of rights and entitlements that have nothing to do with the unshakable Kingdom. In 17 years, I have never uttered such a prayer. Shouldn't I leave well enough alone?

Yet I am resolved to be different. To grow. To stretch. To learn. To pray that my husband will do the same.

The clutch of my palm relaxes, and I set it free. The desire to control, to judge. I see the lines of my hand running deep, mere imitations of the scars He bore. Scars that give Him alone the right to control, to judge. And He has established this covenant of marriage, this protective covering.

In His wisdom and care, He has given me a husband who will not crush my heart in judgment. I can trust him with my heart, just as I trust the Maker of my heart. I said "I Do" to a man who knew my faults and pledged to love me in spite of them. Oh, how he has!

In the quiet still, I know the truth of the matter. It is only the sound of my voice speaking that I fear, as if that would somehow make the words more true. For though I have never prayed these words, my husband has obeyed them. Even when I have not obeyed them, he has. Thank You, Lord. He has.

I bow my head. The words feel uncomfortable on my lips. My heart quickens, tries to resist. I press on as I begin to pray...

*reposted from the archives

holy experience

January 25, 2011

What's On My Nightstand - January 2011

What's On Your Nightstand

Sometimes I wonder how tall it would be, the stack of books I want to read. My virtual shelf has 164 titles waiting, books others recommend and I want to remember. I will get to them one day. My Amazon wish list, which does not overlap, consists of more than 50 books I'd like to own so I can savor them without the limitations of my library's lending policy. These are the ones I want to fill with handwritten notes and highlights, and dog-ear the pages to my heart's content.

It would be - and it has been - easy to get lost in the 200 books before me. The longer they've been on my list, the further they get pushed down on it. I grab books on a whim, with no clear plan. I find myself in the middle of too many books at once, never giving one the full attention it deserves.

This year, I've determined to change that with a monthly reading plan. I've made a list for the first six months, to keep my wandering mind on track and to hold myself accountable. Each month, I will read three books: one fiction, one biography/memoir, and one for spiritual growth. I may - and most likely will - read more, but I will finish the books on my list before moving on.


~Fiction: The Chosen, the story of two Jewish teenage boys during the 1940s, one chosen by his father to be a rabbi and the other who has chosen himself to be a rabbi. Intense, thought-provoking, and educational.

~Biography/Memoir: Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community. My first reading of Bonhoeffer. Encouraging and convicting, this book has given me a new appreciation for my church family.

~Spiritual Growth: Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food. My small attempt at a review can be found here.

~Not on the list: The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances. Andrews says the premise of the story is true, as unbelievable as it seems. This book provided much conversation during our recent journey home.


~Fiction: Amy Inspired, because author Bethany Pierce inspires me with her honest writing.

~Biography/Memoir: Walking with Lincoln: Spiritual Strength from America's Favorite President, in honor of his birthday.

~Spiritual Growth: Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, because I need this more than I can say.

Other readers are sharing what's on their nightstands at 5 Minutes for Books.

January 24, 2011

Made to Crave

The list of things I crave taunts me.

To be thin

These, among others, have wreaked havoc on the majority of my life. Why can't I crave only one thing...the One thing that matters more than the sum total of all other useless and harmful things my heart seems set upon?

When the offer to review Lysa TerKeurst's latest book Made to Crave came my way, I couldn't ignore it. I was hopeful that Lysa might have some insight for me. Her to-the-point writing hit me over the head early on

With Jesus, if we want to gain, we must give up.
If we want to be filled, we must deny ourselves.
If we want to truly get close to God, we'll have to distance ourselves from other things.
If we want to conquer our cravings, we'll have to redirect them to God.
(p. 16, emphasis mine)

There, in black and white, my struggle found its voice.

Since I've started reading, I've been pondering how I can redirect my cravings. Can I give up these intense needs that are not only sworn enemies, but dysfunctional friends? Do I want to? Or would I, like the man invalid for nearly as long as I've been alive...would I rather wallow in self-pity than accept his offer of healing?

Difficult questions.  Am I the only one haunted by them?

If these thoughts follow you, you too will find comfort (and blessed conviction) in Made to Crave.  Lysa's hard-fought wisdom does not apply only to food.

Please don't rely on my words alone. You can read what others think about this book by visiting the blog tour. You can also learn about the accompanying Bible study materials here. Finally, you can click the button below to learn how to win a Kindle, a generous offering from Lysa herself.

Traveling a Familiar Path

We've been down this road before, he and I. We travel down the interstate, just the two of us in a car packed with a couple of suitcases and the excitement of time alone. I notice the exit sign for the city where we spent our first night as man and wife. I think back to that long journey for our honeymoon and how the hours were lost in the endless conversation of two young lovers, giving voice to dreams of a new life. Unsure of everything except each other.

We pass the billboard that reduced us to giggles all those years ago. Nearly two decades later it still looms tall over the road, no worse for the wear. It remains a private joke, a talisman that marks the beginning of our life together. I wonder how many times we've quoted that billboard to each other over the course of our marriage. It reduces us to giggles still.

At our destination the next morning, I draw back the curtains to discover what the darkness hid at our arrival.

How many times have I looked out at an ocean - this ocean - with him? I've lost count. The years have slipped by like grains of sand. Gray hair and wrinkles find us in the mirror. I consider the magic of my hand slipping into his, fitting just as snugly as I imagine it did the very first time he took it. Although I can't recall just when that was, and that makes me sad. I don't want to take any more moments of our lives for granted; don't want to lose memories that I should be storing up like treasures. Yet there are so many already gone, faded into long ago sunsets and washed away by rolling tides. That, too, makes me sad.

The days away come to an end at just the right time. We are eager to return home to the melodic rhythm of daily life. To a girl who called us so often that it hardly felt as if we'd left. To a home that is our haven.

We pack and begin another long ride filled with endless conversation of two old lovers, giving voice to dreams of a new life. Unsure of everything except each other and God.

On In Around button

January 12, 2011

Living in this Day

100 Days stretch out long before me. This is my second attempt. The first abandoned before I could count three.

Bad habits are so hard to break. Good habits equally as difficult to make.

I pray, give myself some grace, and start again. This time pondering what I can give before making the list.

~Bible reading at a slower, more comfortable pace. The rhythm of reading and re-reading a passage for days on end, reveling in the words and their deeper meaning. Finding new treasures each day. Smiling to myself at the realization that the words are becoming familiar friends, staying with me long after I've left the quiet darkness of the morning behind.

~Taking care of myself so that I am not a tired, out-of-sorts wife and mama. Making the effort to have as much energy as possible to meet their needs.

~Daring to love as Christ does, in this season now more than ever.

Can I do this? Even just three things, for 100 days, seems unlikely, if not impossible. And so I don't look there. I don't even look at the next page.  I look only at today and think about how delighted I will be to place check marks in three boxes as the day draws to an end.  Then I will rest long and peacefully before starting again tomorrow.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. ~Matthew 6:34 (ESV)

Join others at Ann's to find encouragement in the practice of making a habit.

January 10, 2011

Beginning Again

His backpack sat lonely in a corner of our bedroom for the past month. He needed a break from it, from the books inside that that weighed heavily on his back and on his brain. For one wonderful month he didn't worry with papers, required reading, or exams. There was no girl cast aside while her dad scratched out calculus problems and her mama's fingers raced over the keyboard, taking handwritten words to the screen. There was no mad scramble to clear books from the table at dinner time. There were no doubts and fears.

There was just us.

The girl returned to school a week ago, coming home each afternoon with algebra problems and Tom Sawyer. Reality slowly crept back into our lives. Even though we've been on this path for months now, it is still unfamiliar. Terrifying at times. Exhilarating at others.

There is so much newness on this path. Today is a new semester. New books, new professors, new schedules, new apprehensions. I bristle against the thought of the coming adjustments, and pray the start of this semester is not as bumpy as the last.

In his pre-college days, my husband enjoyed lifting weights at the gym. You build muscle by tearing it, he would tell me. Like unused muscles, we have grown cold in our comfort. In order to stretch, we must be torn. In order to be built up, we must first be broken down.

I know somehow in all of this stretching and tearing, we are being built up. I know it.

I'm praying I will learn to believe it.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
~Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

On In Around button

January 5, 2011

Living in the Word

January comes, stark white. My front yard still not emerging from the foot of snow that blanketed the last week of December. The calendar pages are pristine, beautiful in their emptiness. Days yet to be counted set before me, a fresh start. The Year of Giving has arrived, full of promise.

As I learned yesterday, giving must take place inside my home before it can take place out in the wide world. Eve is only set before us as a wife and a mother - those roles, her most important. The ones we should cling to as most important. In the perfection of Eden, she had no other obligations.  This world is not the Garden and I find myself stretched thin as tissue paper, afraid I'll tear into shreds at any minute.

How will I be able to give then?

This fresh year sparks a desire for a fresh start. The opportunity to begin good habits.

In this Year of Giving, I will give myself the Word of God in a new way, savoring each precious morsel rather than consuming without thought.

Instead of being intimidated by the thought of having to read the Bible through in a year (and the dread, failure and guilt which inevitably ensued), I am spending the year in the Word using this plan (an answer to prayer!). Soaking in the Word, meditating on it, and hopefully living in it.

I am also memorizing fighter verses to hide the Word in my heart, fight the good battle, and fend off the enemy. (Thank you, John Piper & Bethlehem Baptist Church).
I'm giving myself the habit of spending valuable time in the only Words that matter. It's the best give I'll ever receive.

January 4, 2011

A Prayer for a Tuesday

The lyrics wash over me, seeping into my skin and penetrating my bones. They become my prayer when I'm on my way to work, ashamed at how I raised my voice this morning in frustration and how I didn't even thank my husband who stepped in for me when my head was throbbing so hard I couldn't see straight.

Don't want to leave them hungry for love,
Chasing things that I could give up

I'll show them I'm willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me, 'cause I can't do this alone.

I ponder the length of the list of things I chase, things with no value or significance. What pursuits of mine leaving my family hungry for love? Am I so easily lured by the meaningless because I fear the meaningful?

I consider the best of my life. Have I found it yet? Would I know it if I saw it? Would they?

My family deserves more than the half-hearted attempts, the leftovers of my life. This man and girl I've been entrusted to love, they should have a wife and mama who is in fighting shape and who is ready to battle any force that threatens our home. Lord, lead me. I can't do this alone.

I read the many words impressed on others' hearts this year. Glorious themes that I wish He had burned on my own soul. Words like imperfect and depend, love and here. I covet those words, those journeys. I long to set my feet on those paths. Yet I am called to give. Not just outside my home, but first and foremost in it.

To give love...hugs and cuddles, words that build.

To give understanding...when he is crushed under the weight of school and she is held captive by pre-teen hormones.

To give help...when forms need completing, books need ordering, and papers need typing.

To give time...at the dinner table, at the homework table, and at the game table.

To give of myself instead of taking for myself.

The Year of Giving will be a challenge and I'm not sure I'm up to the task. I'm forever grateful that I know the One Who is.

(*lyrics from "Lead Me", by Sanctus Real)

January 3, 2011

January - Giving to Neglected Children

The Christmas decorations will soon be dismantled, but the Spirit of Christmas will live on in our home. The Year of Giving is about to commence, our first project already chosen.

Rather than tossing Christmas cards out with the wrapping paper, we are giving them new life at the St. Jude's Ranch. There, in the hands of neglected, abused, and abandoned children, they will be transformed.

Such a simple thing, to collect something that would normally be thrown away and pass it along. For the cost of postage, we can send the Spirit of Christmas across the country. We'll continue to gather cards throughout the year. We're enlisting family and friends to help.

An envelope filled with discarded greeting cards can help change a life.

Visit the Ranch to find out more.

Will you join us in A Year of Giving? Pray that the Lord will open your eyes to new opportunities to give and share the love of Christ with others. In God's kingdom, the heart of the giver matters more than the size of the gift.

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, "Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." - Luke 21:1-4 (ESV)