The Real Deal Part I

This is my first post in a long while. Two years and eight months to be exact. I have since adopted a dog, married a man, quit my job, left the great state of Texas, and broken my leg.



So, why now the return to bloggie world? A few reasons come to mind of which I will let you rank in order of most to least interesting:

1. I am currently unemployed.
2. I am feeling sassy.
3. I have a broken leg and am using it as an excuse to veg on the couch.
4. My thoughts merit permanent documentation on the internet for the whole world to see.

Maybe it is some morbid combination of all the above.

Regardless, I'd like to fill you in on our cross country trek from the "Friendship" state to the "Live Free or Die" state (aka New Hampshire). In case you were wondering, "Friendship" is the lesser known but official Texas state motto. Maybe my fellow Texans already know this? Through a series of strategically calculated events, I escaped subjection to the full year of Texas History in middle school.

Callie (my relatively new pup), Michael (my newer husband) and I departed from the great state of Texas mid-July and embarked on an adventure to New Hampshire by way of Penske and my SUV. Packing an entire apartment while your husband is away for six weeks is not a fantasy I ever desire to relive. Granted I received generous help from a lot of friends who poured blood, sweat and tears into boxes along with our belongings. The final day of packing and loading proved to be a beast. Schlepping a ridiculous amount of (my) possessions from our second story apartment in the Texas summer heat was nothing short of exhausting. Thankfully we were greeted by friends at 8 p.m. with a deliciously warm meal, a considerable amount of wine, the opportunity to shower, and a cozy bed for the night. The last tidbits of love and laughter around the dinner table ended in late night goodbyes and an all-too-soon 4 a.m. alarm beckoning us to open our eyelids.

With sleepy eyes and feelings of anxious anticipation, Michael and I took our last trip to Shipley Donuts and hit the road. I was bummed that we bypassed downtown Houston. The skyline possesses a unique beauty when lit by the rising sun. For the next six hours, my best friends were Carly Rae Jepsen, One Direction, Ke$ha, and Pitbull. We arrived in New Orleans about mid-afternoon and, after inhaling delectable sandwiches and fishing a semi-formal cocktail dress out of the moving truck, collapsed onto another cozy bed. Pressed for time, I awoke and showered with a retractable shower hose in a luxurious porcelain tub. Then the car arrived and we were whisked off as our friends' guests to a statesman's event on Bourbon Street, after which we were treated to a fantastic dinner at Mr. B's. Upon finishing a well-rounded after dinner glass of port and with new knowledge of an intriguing historical narrative, we turned in for the night.

The next morning we departed for my parent's home in north Georgia.

To be continued...

Our Response to the Problem of Evil

I guess I hardly need call anyone's attention to the reality that there is more horror than happiness in the world. A billion people are hungry, hundreds of conflicts and wars are ongoing, tens of millions suffer from eradicable diseases, there is always at least one genocide under way somewhere on the planet, more people still live under dictatorships or oppressive regimes than live in free societies, and arms dealers still make more money than farmers. Of course individuals can make a difference, but the fact is that evil had had the whip hand in this world ever since Cain. That doesn't mean we should stop trying to be good, but we shouldn't kid ourselves, either. Evil is not going to be vanquished [this side of heaven]. Our job is to resist it, and to plant the seeds of further resistance so that goodness never entirely vanishes from the universe. There are degrees of resistance. It starts when you give a dollar to a homeless person and it escalates to the point where people give their lives, as Gandhi did, or Martin Luther King Jr. One person can make a difference by traveling as far along that continuum as they feel able.

- Chris Cleave, Little Bee Author Q&A

[personal annotation]

Keep Calm and Have a Cup of Wonder

"What is a cup of wonder?" you may ask.

Advent is a season of wonder, of anticipation, of preparation, of hope. During Advent, we wait for God to reveal God's self in human form, as one of us. This is a season of awe, a time to rest in amazement of having been created, loved, and redeemed by a God who defies description, yet chooses to reveal God's own mysterious, wonderful self to hearts that will receive it. Drink from the cup of wonder that is Advent. Drink deeply.

In the name of Jesus Christ,
who was never in a hurry,
we pray, O God,
that you will slow us down.
For we know that we live too fast,
with all of eternity before us.
Make us take time to live --
time to get acquainted with You,
time to enjoy your blessings,
and time to know each other.

Peter Marshall, 1902-1949

2011: What A Year

2011 was nothing short of a roller coaster ride if I've ever been on one.

God was so so gracious in all of His dealings with me. In fact, I was telling a friend the other day, "God has done an incredible work in three short years and he continues to show me increasing favor."

I believe last we (you and I) talked I was wrapping up the end of my summer session at the Boys & Girls Club. With great expectation and anticipation I can tell you I am now back in the great state of Texas (indefinitely).

So many prayers were answered this year.

Prayer for...

A job
Direction
Increased faith
The salvation of souls
Roommates
A place to live
Revelation of sin
Humility
Community that runs deep
Greater love
Financial provision
Grace, grace, and more grace

...one of these days I'll read through my old journals and make a running list of answered prayers.

Famous last words, right?

Well, if you think about it, all prayers are answered in some way or another. If we really believe God is all-good and all-loving, then even in those prayers He "seemingly" didn't answer He worked in our best interest.

God says of David:

“Because he loves me...I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him" (Psalm 91:14-15)

He does the same for all of His children.

Take heart, though oft His answer seems terribly late, He loves us most when He says, "Wait."

In the past I could read all these stories of saints waiting for years for God to answer them and for whatever reason (ahem, lack of faith) I always thought, "Sure, He answered those guys, but will He really answer me? Little ole me?"

Truth be told, at those moments I thought myself a giant holding onto my little pocket-sized Jesus. Little? Yeah right, my head was anything but little.

And after waiting only 10 months in the-middle-of-nowhere Alabama, He answered! Shocked? I shouldn't have been. Or should I have?

There is this funny tension between knowingly expecting God to answer our prayers and our surprise when He does. What's that about? Seriously, please email me if you know.

Alas, I seriously digress.

2012, I'm expecting even greater things from you. I have a hunch you will not disappoint.

To leave you with one last reminder of God's amazing grace:

I have been given the best job with the best co-workers and the best bosses, not to mention incredible roommates and Church family, any girl my age could ask for.

To God Most High be all glory, honor, and praise forevermore!

Summer 2011...long overdue

This has been quite possibly the most challenging and most rewarding summer yet. Well, it's neck-in-neck with nannying those three little ones last summer.

They are each a blessing in their own way.

What continues to blow my mind is how great each of these 192 chillins (children) have impacted my heart. Each holds a delicate piece of it in their hands. Naturally some have bigger pieces. After all, you can only get to know a few so well in 9 (relatively) short weeks.

Goodness, God is so gracious to me.

If only I could recount all the amazing things He has done this summer. After running full-force ahead for nine straight weeks, it's going to take a few weeks to fully recover and a couple more months to let the beautiful details of His brilliant plan sink in. I wish I could explain how I experienced Him in even the smallest of details.

Jon Bloom captures the essence of what I want to say:

...nothing that happens to you today is really ordinary. Every small and great thing you encounter or do has millions of stories behind it that are so enthralling that you would sit dumbstruck for days just to learn about them.
And your extraordinary life is shaping and being shaped by many other lives, human and non-human, as it goes along. In ways both witting and unwitting your words and actions are influencing the course of other lives. Your choice of a parking spot could have a life-altering effect on someone else.

Do not let a belief in the sovereignty of God dull your amazement over this. Let it add, not detract, from your wonder! Just think of how God designed his creation to occur.
I wish I knew each of these kids' stories. No two are alike. At the same time, I don't think I have the capacity to handle the weight of each of their stories. Broken homes. Broken families. Broken hearts. And yet, I see the infinite grace of God and His plan of redemption in each of their eyes. That is a gift in and of itself. In the midst of brokenness there is hope.

Hope of eternity spent rejoicing in the holiness of our Father. Hope that I pray God will reveal to each of these precious treasures.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
                                                                               (Romans 8:14-17)
The one thought resounding in my mind for the past few hours has been that the most rewarding things tend to be the most challenging.

We are not promised a piece-of-cake life.

But, oh, taste and see what is to come!  

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

And that which, by His amazing grace, we are able to see now...







And always enjoy the ride...

Resolved

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

My, oh my, God is good! I wish I could divulge all the amazing things He is doing in and around me right now, but suffice it to say He is most definitely alive in this small town. He continues to remind me that His grace is sufficient; that those who are faithful with little will be entrusted with much; and that no one, absolutely no one, is beyond salvation.

Oh, Lord, help my unbelief!

Inspired by the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards written some 288 years ago, I drafted a much more simplified list of my own, and here now, for the purposes of documentation and accountability, I am publishing them for the whole world to see.

I have already failed miserably. Alas, my hope lies in the scripture first listed in this post.

I resolve to love God each day with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength.

I resolve to give my Lord the first fruits of my labors.

I resolve to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, trusting that all else necessary for His glory will be given unto me.

I resolve to share His magnificent gospel with all peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations placed in my path.

I resolve to love my neighbor as myself, giving sacrificially and expecting nothing in return.

I resolve to pray for my enemies daily, conscious of the fleeting time with which their eternal destiny will be determined.

I resolve to have no other gods than the one and only Father, Spirit, and Savior of the world -- Jesus Christ -- and to forsake all things competing with them for my affections.

I resolve to daily lay all things at the foot of the cross in hope of being filled with and led by the Holy Spirit, by His grace, for my joy and His supreme glory.
 July 17, 2011 (or somewhere around there)

The Great Paradox of Christianity

The more we get what we now call "ourselves" out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of "little Christs," all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He invented -- as an author invents characters in a novel -- all the different men that you and I were intended to be. In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to "be myself" without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact what I so proudly call "Myself" becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I never started and which I cannot stop. What I call "My wishes" become merely the desires thrown up by my physical organism or pumped into me by other men's thoughts or even suggested to me by devils...Propaganda will be the real origin of what I regard as my own personal political ideals. I am not, in my natural state, nearly so much of a person as I like to believe:  most of what I call "me" can be very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own...


There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most "natural" men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been:  how gloriously different are the saints.


But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away "blindly" so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality:  but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original:  whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end:  submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever by really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.


C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity