Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reflecting on 2010

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve blogged anything. But, with the new year around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on 2010. If anything, I would say that 2010 was a hard year. But, that’s not to say it wasn’t a good year.
The spring is kind of a blur to me. I thoroughly enjoyed the classes I was taking. I felt like I was gaining useful information—for teaching, for editing, and for grant writing. I got to work on practical projects that were immediately relevant. But by March/April, my relationship with my boss turned sour. I’m still not sure what happened, and it seems like it shouldn’t be that big of a deal—I mean, I have plenty of other encouraging relationships in my life. My husband for one! But it was a big deal. I’ve known I’m a “performer” for some time, but if anything, this year was about seeing performance at its worst. And though it’ll likely be a struggle throughout my life, I think seeing my performance this year has given it a sour taste in my mouth.
I was thinking about each month in the last year. We traveled somewhere (even if not very far) at least once every month. From San Antonio and Ft. Davis to Dallas (several times), family reunion at Lake LBJ, and homecoming in San Angelo, we spent a lot of time in the car! Because our families are kinda spread out in Texas, we spend some time in the car around the holidays too. But I was thinking Monday, as we were making the 6 hour trek home from Killeen, how much I enjoy trips with Hal. Just the two of us. Sometimes we talk (seriously or not), but a lot of times we don’t. We might hold hands and listen to music (to which I often sing :)), but it’s so peaceful. It’s the best quality time we get sometimes.
Obviously, going to Guatemala in May/June was the big trip of the year. It came at a time when I was really down and struggling with work. God showed up so big on that trip, but I don’t think I’d processed it much until this month. He literally saved our lives at a moment when we were in real danger. He showed himself in a very real and tangible way on that trip. You would think, having experienced all of that, my faith would have grown, and I would have come to trust him to take care of anything. I wish I could say that it did.
But instead, I spent the rest of the summer feeling really beaten down. My boss and professor at the time had a way of making me feel really lousy and incompetent. I could not measure up in any way. I could not do “it” right, ever. And on top of that, she criticized my writing—which hurt most of all. Instead of running to the Lord, instead of finding my hope and confidence and my expectation in Him (as I know, deep down, I ought to), I kept looking at my “work” as a measure of myself. And, at the moment, I was falling very short—at least in one person’s opinion. When I failed a project in August, I seriously considered quitting the PhD program. Were it not for the graduate director, I might have.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any days off between summer break and fall semester (though there should have been a good 10 or 12 days of rest in there). When I finally quit my job (the Friday before school started), I was preparing to teach—my first semester to teach two sections of 2311, intro to technical communication. My reading- and writing-intensive theory classes began the following week. And just like that, my crazy semester had begun. I was not prepared for it. Emotionally, I was discouraged. Spiritually, I was weak. Instead of running to the Lord with my hurts, I’d been to “busy” trying to get things in order.
Every hour of my day was filled. I read several hundred pages a week. I wrote several pages a week. I had projects. Research. Dissertation committee choices. Lesson plans. And above all—grading. In 15 weeks, I graded 2,334 pages of students' work—not counting quizzes, homeworks, etc. If anything, that gives a brief glimpse into the last four months of my year. But deep down, I was intensely struggling.
Of all semesters, this was the semester to take one class in particular that had a way of subtly denouncing Christianity in almost every class. We studied post-modernism, and I got to hear about why religion was socially constructed and a cultural phenomenon, why God was dead—as Nietzsche had put it. Nearly every day the professor had a way of squeezing politics into the classroom. Praising Obama for this or that, criticizing republicans for every (so-called) failure America has faced in the last few years. Praising Islamics despite the persecution they faced as minorities, but criticizing Christians for being intolerant. At the end of every class period, I was becoming less and less proud to call myself a Christian. It did not help that I had pushed myself very far away from God, becoming more prideful than ever and, especially, bitter over the way things had turned out that summer.
I was almost 6 weeks into the semester before I confessed to Hal how much I was truly struggling. It was the worst “Christian” thing to say out loud, and I knew it. But I was beginning to wonder—what if Christianity really is a socially-constructed thing? The Bible was written by men. Historically, we know things aren’t always recorded as they actually were. What if it’s all a big joke in the end, and everyone else is right? Crying at our kitchen table, I told him I needed proof that God was real (note: as if Guatemala wasn’t enough). And I needed to be able to defend Him because right now, I couldn’t even defend myself, much less what I believed in.
To those who are reading (and likely surprised), I don’t want to give the impression of complete disbelief. It wasn’t that far. The problem was I knew I had experienced God on a deep and personal level. He saved me. He walked me through forgiveness. He healed me. He restored me. But my emotional experiences wouldn’t stand up in “court” as a defense of anything. My real struggle was that I wanted to be able to “prove” that God existed, and I couldn’t find a solid, logical, reasonable argument to make—at a time when the counterarguments seemed pretty reasonable.
Hal, in his precious, patient way, said very little except that he understood, that he didn’t judge me (my biggest fear of all), and that he would be praying. And though I recognized the significance of it more and more in the weeks to come—Hal shared with me a passage God had given him to pray over me. At the time, he thought it was odd that God would tell him that. Once I shared my struggles, it made all the sense in the world. And in the weeks to come, I was humbled and in awe that God would care about me enough to whisper what I needed to hear to Hal—just to show me He was real. (The passage was 1 Corinthians 1: 18-25. Read it. You’ll see why it was the first step to answering my “prove it” question.)
And in response to God’s message for me—I had one thing to say. If you’re real, prove it. Deep in my heart, He quietly gave me my favorite verse of all time, the verse I had etched on my very first bible after I was saved: Jeremiah 29:13. God said to me: Seek me. I am confident you’ll find me. That was in September. I wish I could say I sought him all weekend, and by Sunday, I could laugh at myself for having ever doubted. But instead, I didn’t take much time to seek him at all. I had school. And work. And grading. When would I seek him?
Instead of being filled with His strength, the semester was draining. I was running on empty when the gas light had been on for quite some time. Going to church was so difficult. Not because I don’t love my church or the people there. If anything, that’s what kept me going. But I felt like such a hypocrite. I’m a Sunday-morning greeter and a college ministry leader—not someone who should be struggling with the basic foundation of my faith. I was as ashamed of my doubting as anything—not something I felt like confessing to even my closest friends or family. Apart from Hal and Erika, I tried to pretend things were “business as usual.” But deep down, I was miserable.
In October, I decided to read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I’d never read it, had no clue what it was about, but felt like God had put it on my heart. I waited nearly a week to buy it. I’d try to read some of C.S. Lewis before, but I got bogged down in his complex sentence constructions and big words. What if it didn’t make sense to me? When I finally broke down and bought it at Barnes and Noble, I couldn’t put it down. I read almost half the book in one setting (it took a little longer to read the second half once the end of school business picked up). I soaked everything in—especially the logical way he structured his arguments, the way he used analogies to prove the existence of something and later the existence of God.
But the end of October, November, and first week of December are a blur. I regret to say that I spent weeks not seeking God at all. But He never stopped seeking me. And most importantly, He never stopped proving himself to me, even when I stopped asking him to. He met me again, in our office one morning as I’d just put the last few touches on one of my finals for class. I emailed the final to the professor, and sat back in my chair, stretching, thinking that I was more than halfway done with the “final” things to do for coursework. And that’s when it hit me. I was going to make it. There were moments in September and October that I literally didn’t think I would finish. Not for lack of effort, but for lack of hours in a day, days in a week, etc. With all the plates I had spinning, I genuinely wasn’t sure it would be finished on time. I’d considered seriously asking for an incomplete in more than one course. And here I was, almost done. The worst was over. I was coasting to the finished line.
For the first time in months, I cried. A lot. I hadn’t sought God for help, like I usually would at the busy time of the semester. Of all semesters, this semester seemed particularly wrong to do that. I’d spent most of the semester doubting him, then to make last minute “requests” seemed unfair. That wasn’t the relationship I wanted with him. And most importantly, that wasn’t who he was. He’s not a genie who fulfills “wishes.” I’ve recently started reading W.’s book, Decision Points, and one of his statements says this so perfectly: “The center of Christianity is not the self. It is Christ.” I realized that day, I was tired of having a relationship with God that was all about me and never about him. I don’t know when it got to be that way; it hadn’t always been so self-seeking.
But the point was I hadn’t asked God to help me—perhaps out of pride, perhaps for fear of selfishness. In either case, that morning I was overwhelmed to think that He had helped me. I knew better than to think that I had made it through the semester on my own. I hadn’t. Not for one second. And the beautiful thing was He had carried me, even when I didn’t know it. I remember jokingly saying a few months ago that if I could finish this semester, it would be a miracle. And there I was--about to finish. He had "proven" himself to me.
That day—in the middle of needing to finish my “lists”—I wrote out what I think is a fairly good argument for God’s existence, one that hopes to turn post-modernism on itself. I felt better after that. But the most important thing I learned that day seems so obvious now: I can’t prove God exists. If I could, believing in Him wouldn’t require faith. I thought about all the things God has brought me through in my lifetime (which, yes, is not that long). I thought about all the prayers He had answered. The times He had spoken to me. The times He had spoken to me for someone else, and been “right on.” And I decided—that was enough. Maybe it was more emotional than logical. Maybe it was more enthymemic than analytic logic. But it worked for me. For the first time in months, I was satisfied. God had proven himself faithful when I was unfaithful. And I had found him, even without much seeking, because He was there all along.
So, that is my year. A difficult year indeed. But looking back, it was so necessary for me to experience everything, to walk the tight line of faith and doubt, because for once I feel confident that I could defend my relationship with God. And, more importantly, I feel at peace knowing I don’t have to defend my God to anyone. He can defend himself. In the end, it comes down to choice. I’ve made my choice. I made it a long time ago. And now, having questioned it and tested it, I still choose Him. And I’m more thankful than ever that He chose me long ago.
If you made it to the end of this post—which I apologize, is quite long—then you’ve read one of the most open, vulnerable things I’ve ever written. I knew when I posted it that it was a raw picture of myself. But I felt the need to share it anyway. I’m not ashamed that I doubted anymore because God’s not ashamed of it either. And I hope that my 2010 journey will encourage others to question what they believe in, to really test it until you know it’s true, until you’re confident in it again. I encourage others to guard yourself with believers who will support you and pray for you. I know Hal and Erika’s prayers of protection allowed me to doubt without being swept away by the enemy. And I encourage you to pursue a relationship with God that’s two-sided again—a relationship where you can talk to him for an hour without making it about yourself for even one minute. That’s the direction I hope to be headed in as we begin a new year.
I want to close with another quote from W. that I read a couple days ago. To me, it’s a very powerful statement—especially that proving God cannot be the standard of our belief. Wow.

"If you haven't ever doubted, you haven't thought very hard about what you believe. Ultimately, faith is a walk - a journey toward greater understanding. It's not possible to prove that God exists, but that cannot be the standard for belief. After all, it's equally impossible to prove that He doesn't exist. In the end, whether you believe or don't believe, your position is based on faith."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

When the going gets tough...

God hasn't promised a smooth ride. In fact, from James 1, we gather that we should expect trials. James says "When you face trials...", not "If you face trials..." Put another way, I've heard my whole life to focus on WHO God is, not on WHAT He is doing. Or again, I've heard that circumstances will be up and down, but this doesn't mean your emotions or your relationship with God has to or should be up and down.

And yet, when they hit, it's so hard to focus on what you know to be true.

Prior to going to Guatemala, things were looking up for us. Really up. Extra income was flowing in; God more than provided for our trip. And God was doing some good things in our marriage as well. After Guatemala, we both suffered from still being stomach sick for two or three weeks, coupled with the stress of returning to work and lost vacation days... On top of that, the bill for my ER visit in February was slapped on us with a 30 day due date, and I did not get a paycheck July 1st (by error, not for lack of working in June...). Now, on July 14th, I've still not been paid and I'm told my Aug 1st paycheck may be delayed as well...

Nothing like a hit with finances to really sour your mood. And with terrible timing. Lack of finances only complicates other complicated decisions: should we try for a baby soon or wait til I finish school? should we buy a new (used) car or hold on to my paid-for, 11-year-old, 135,000-mile car? Even vacation plans for our anniversary this year are suddenly put on hold.

Not only am I struggling to stand firm and consistent with the Lord, but I'm struggling to keep my emotions (particularly frustration, lack of patience, etc.) under control. This morning I nearly lost it while dealing with our payroll staff, proving how truly terrible our little tongue can be...

But as always, I'm reminded that the choice is mine. And that's really what it comes down to... I once heard someone say that our stress and worry is really just a lack of faith: we don't believe God is big enough to take care of our problem. In addition, it's a pride issue: we think we can do it better, quicker, etc. than God.

So, stopping the craziness, moment-by-moment, I have to sit down and say, "God, I surrender my pride. I'm not big enough, but I believe you are. And I trust your word that not only do you never leave me, but you also never fail me. You're in control of this and of all things."

And this day, that's precisely what I choose to do.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Catching up...

There are a million things I should be doing right now, but I'm not motivated to get any of them done. So, while avoiding work and reading other's blogs (that I haven't read in months!), I thought I would do a little updating. Since it's been forever, I'll just stick to the top 5 news stories. :)

1) Guatemala. We went to Guatemala at the end of May for 12 days. It was supposed to be for 10 days, but we got a little stuck (a story for another day). We got to do some incredible work for the Lord in a little town/village up north. I was so blessed by the way He used us and more importantly, blessed by the people I got to encounter. I was supposed to go and give away two weeks of my time in service, and instead I spent two weeks being filled with encouragement and love from others.

2) Summer Blues. I am taking one course this summer and working as Assistant Director of Composition (my job for the last 2 years) and Director of Composition Extended Studies (a new job that got "assimilated" into my job title. :)). I also picked up a side job editing dissertations for the graduate school. I'm so thankful for that job because they're paying me really well per hour! :) Believe it or not, this summer's actually been more demanding and time-consuming than last spring... I had to cut a few things out of my life in order to keep my sanity. :) But, work is work and the class is really important for the research I'll be doing for my dissertation. So, all-in-all, it's a necessary and relevant 3 months. :)

3) Ranch. We went to the ranch the weekend after we got back from Guatemala. For one, it was the only weekend for the entire summer that wasn't planned already! Good Grief! But, we also needed to help my dad with some stuff around the ranch. We spent an entire day fixing roads... It was some tough work, but I got to use a chain saw. :) P.S. Those are heavier than they look....

4) Zoe Leader's Retreat. We went on the Zoe leader's retreat at the end of June. It was really nice to be a part of that this year. We've been a part of Zoe for three years now, but we've always been on the outside looking in. It was fun to get to help plan events and toss ideas around. Being a part of Chapter 1 was a huge thing in both our lives in San Angelo, and it was nice to feel that way again. :)

5) Doctor's Order. So, last but not least-- I went to the doctor this week for my arthritis. For those who don't know, I've been diagnosed with a semi-rare form of arthritis since I was 17. I also have a tendency to skip out on my appointments... ;-) But, for the last month or so, I've been in a lot of pain (starting in Guatemala, actually). So, it was time to make some changes... My doctor changed my arthritis medicine, which I think is going to be a good thing. And he also gave me pain medicine, which I'm super excited about! So far, the medicine has made me sick, but I'm hoping to adjust soon! On a more depressing note, he also recommended that I lose some weight. I've gained quite a bit of weight since I last saw him (almost 2 years ago, right after Hal & I got married). And even though I wouldn't consider myself a "big girl," I know that taking a few pounds off will take some of the pressure off my back and hips, which are the worst areas where my arthritis is concerned.

So, I'm trying, for the first time in my life (seriously!) to eat healthy. I've never been a good eater, and in high school and college, I just stayed active and ate what I wanted. Now, that I'm getting older, my metabolism has changed, and it's time for a few adjustments. So, fruits and veggies--welcome to my life. :) I'll keep you updated on my progress...

To close: this weekend, we're going to Six Flags and a Ranger game--our one little vacation for the summer! I'm super excited about it, though. We even get to take our doggies (cause we're staying in a hotel that takes dogs). :) More to come on that event....

Everyday, I am more blessed by what God is doing in our lives. We've almost been married 2 years, we have a beautiful house, cars that run, and two dogs that are precious to us (well, Riley...sometimes....). :) It's not been easy. Circumstances are up and down. But God is good and faithful. He always has been!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wise Words from Beth Moore

I was very touched and convicted by something I read this morning, and I wanted to share it. In talking about the Crucifixion of Jesus, at which point he says, "It is finished," Beth Moore says,

"A few very important things were finished, all right. But the Lord Jesus was not one of them. It's strange, isn't it? The very thing He finished we can't seem to leave alone; and the very thing he hasn't finished, we try to halt. The work of Calvary is finished. No more payment for sin is necessary. He did it all by Himself on the Cross. We can't earn it. We can't add to it. It is finished. Yet, we try to add our good works to his Salvation.

However, the work He is doing on everyone who has accepted Christ as Savior is not finished. Salvation is finished. Sanctification is not. Completion is not. Philippians 1:6 promises that "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Yet we wish He'd stop picking on us the moment we're saved and let us be the boss. Like the Pharisees, we wish He'd stop interfering. Give this some consideration: sometimes more effort is required to keep rolling the stone back over the tomb than simply to cooperate with the work He seeks to finish in us.

Do we just want the cross without the resurrection? Are we trying to stuff the living, working Christ back into the tomb so He'll just save us and then let us alone? Or do we want to know 'the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings'?"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lessons from Charlie

So, this week I think I've learned a little lesson about how God, as parent, loves us, as children--from my precious little dog, Charlie.

A week ago, we took Charlie to the groomer, and they shaved his belly a little too close. He spent the weekend licking it and irritating it (despite our requests to leave it alone). By Monday, he had a full blown rash and skin irritation, making his belly as red as a cherry. We put a cone on his head and tried to do as many at-home remedies as possible: benadryl, cortizone cream, etc. Of course, he hated the cone and basically hated us for putting it on him. By Wednesday afternoon, after three sleepless nights with him stirring all night long, Hal came home from work to find that Charlie was out of his cone, happily licking himself. By the next morning, he had completely broken the cone, so that it didn't function to keep him from licking. So, Thursday morning, with his rash not getting any better, I finally took him to the vet. One hour later, with a new cone on his head and loaded up with medicine, he was back to giving me his "death" stares.

And all week, I've felt like the worst mother ever. And Hal keeps telling me, it's for his own good; he's fine--just wait til we have kids, and we have to give them medicine they hate or make them eat food they don't like. I knew he was right. Even the vet said that the groomer probably hadn't done anything wrong; the skin just had irritated Charlie, and he'd caused most of the pain himself.

It was at that point that I was thinking, you'd think Charlie would know better... And then it dawned on me--he doesn't. He has a pain and, in his mind, licking it is the best way to ease the pain he feels.

I thought about how, sadly, we are similar sometimes. We only see the pain or the hurt in front of us. We keep licking wounds of unforgiveness or bitterness, in an effort to hold onto our pride and self-righteousness. God continues to caution us to leave the wound alone, to let it heal--but we don't listen. And sometimes, he flat out puts a cone around our heads, so we can heal. We might hate it, and try to hide from him. (Note: Charlie spent about four hours Tuesday morning hiding from me, under the desk in the office.) Or, if we do recognize that its for our own good, sometimes the process of healing will cause us to run into walls; cones around our head might limit our vision or our ability to do the things we used to do or want to do. But God knows. He's watching every move we make. He's directing us, so we don't run into anything. And He sees what's in front of us.

And the best insight of all, I believe God grimaces a little deep inside when He sees the cones around our head. He hates that He has to do it to us because, in reality, He wants to give us everything we want. He hates to see us unhappy. But, the truth is, He knows it's for our good. We might think Him cruel and unfair, but really, He's just being a parent who loves us enough to put a cone on our head and let our wounds heal. And, for this season anyway, He's more concerned about our healing than our happiness.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Favor of God

I've been focusing on the favor of God--that I'm favored every day because I'm His. I have more than just anyone is this world. I have Him; His blood; His grace; His favor.

So, this morning, I sat down to finish the grant proposal I've been working on for COTR for the last six weeks. Two weeks ago, I hit a wall. The funder I'm requesting money from requires an audited statement, and the Dream Center does not have an audited statement (since it's so young). I contacted the funder to see if they would accept our most recent financial statement. I was given the run-around for over week--call this person, no call that person, etc. I was given numbers that didn't work and emails that said they were invalid. When I finally thought I had the right contact person, I sent another email. One week later, I've heard nothing. Last week, I made another phone call to this person. Still, didn't hear anything back.

At this point, I was really discouraged. Funders live and breathe by the requirements they set forth in their RFP. If they wanted an audited statement and if we don't have one, we're out. Given that I'd spent a month on this project, I didn't want to be "out." I didn't want to change funders, and I didn't want to re-write another proposal.

Yesterday, when I started working on the project, I knew that was a big hole in our proposal. We'd decided just to go for it, but I think, deep down, I wanted the assurance that all this hard work would at least have a shot at something. So, I asked the Lord for his favor. I declared it, actually, because I am blessed and highly favored of the Lord.

So, this morning, I sit down to finish the proposal (due Thursday). And I receive a text message from a friend that says, "You're highly favored today; be blessed with your profession/career." I smiled and sat the phone down and thought, "okay." Not ten minutes after I received that text message, I got an email reply from the funder saying they would accept our most recent financial statement, in light of our not having been audited.

I couldn't believe it. After no response for almost two weeks, I'd literally given up on the idea that I'd ever hear back. But God is good and faithful. And He does more than meet our expectations. He surprises us with favor and blessing. It could not have come at a more perfect time; I'm not sure last week I would have appreciated His gift. But today, not only do I see it as a special gift for me, but I also see it as His confirmation to me that He is listening. He didn't have to do it, but He chose to because He loves me and because I am His.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Today, I'm believing.

Today, I'm believing. That's the declaration I made to God this morning. And it's the declaration I want to continue making. This weekend, Hal and I both were so encouraged by Joe McGee (Hal probably more so because he got to spend the whole weekend with him). In talking about the way that he and his family pray for God to move in their life, Joe really challenged us to have the same discipline and confidence in our own life. So, last night, Hal and I made a list of the areas in our life where we'd like to see God move. It's not a huge list, but as we sat and prayed together, I felt more encouraged and strengthened than I have in years. I'm always asking God for things, but I think I fall short of really believing for them. Not because I don't believe God can do it, but because I don't have the focus and the confidence to express, by faith, his promises and his Word.

Every day, I'm supposed to walk in the favor of God, but I don't. I'm supposed to believe in His blessing--that every day He wants to bless me--but I don't. I miss it. I get caught up in work and school and the day-to-day routine. When God first saved me, I was so hungry for his Word. I memorized it, I carried it with me everywhere I went, and I meditated on it all day long. I don't do that anymore. In my comfort and complacency, I leave God next to my journal and my bible, where I sit to pray in the mornings. I might talk to Him throughout the day--asking for His help, praying for a friend. But that's different than believing. And it's certainly different than declaring.

Believing and declaring mean that I have God's word hidden in my heart. That all day long, I meditate on His word--like Proverbs 3:5-6 or Phil 4:6-7, both of which remind me to rest under His sovereignty. I should focus on Eph 1 and Romans 8, which declare that not only has He redeemed me, but I am His. As I give of time and money, I should remember that I can't outgive God (Luke 6:38). And regardless of what I'm doing in the day, I should remember that I do it all for Him (Col 3:23). Excellence and perserverence are noble, but they are all the more soured if my motivation is to please man. Hard-work and determination are worthy, but all the more useless if I'm driven by pride. But learning to walk in humility, learning to work before an audience of One--that is worth meditating on.

So, today I'm believing.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Challenges We Face

It's crazy how when you step out in faith to do something, you're suddenly faced with challenges. Sometimes we say it's Satan attacking our decision; sometimes we say we're being tested and refined. I'm not sure what this falls under, but let's just say this--Hal and I made a decision to step out in faith, and we're certainly facing challenges. :)

About three weeks ago, we made the decision to go to Guatemala for a mission trip with COTR this summer. The cost to go is $3000, and Paige told us to be prepared to pay about 1/3 of that amount, even if we raise support. At the time, we thought that's not so bad. We could do that... Then I got sick--spent $200 in prescriptions and doctor visits, followed by an even more expensive trip to the ER.

A week ago, we paid our $100 deposit for the trip. And 5 days later, we received our ER bill.

At first, I was really discouraged. The bill was more than we thought it would be; the insurance didn't pay what we figured they would. I wrestled with the Lord, asking "why does it always have to be about money? When will we ever be past these tests?" The frustration then turned to "why do we never have more? Where is our blessing--after all that we've sown for your Kingdom?"

When I finished complaining and doubting, the Lord gently reminded me that He is more than enough and in fact, has always given us just what we need. We don't need more. We can't handle more--not yet. Right now, in this season, He's teaching us to live off daily Manna from Him. When I reread that passage in Exodus, I kept going back to how the Manna would rot the next day--as the Israelites tried to store it and save it for later. What God wanted to teach them was daily dependence. And He wants to teach me the same thing.

So, with faith and confidence in Him, I am believing that He will provide the money for our ER bill and that He will provide the money for Guatemala. Because MY GOD is a good and faithful God.

Monday, January 11, 2010

For Hal

To begin-- I don't write this as a "marriage on display" entry, but as a moment to share my heart.

Last night, at 1 a.m., I went to bed crying. Not because I was sad, but because I was overwhelmed with how much I love Hal. Maybe it was because it was late, and I'd been reading Nicholas Sparks' new book, and, as usual, someone was probably soon to die. I put the book down before it got too sad, and turned the light out. Hal, in his half-awakened state, snuggled close to me, putting his arm around me and entwining our hands under the pillow--the usual way we fall asleep. And laying there, I just started to cry. Not only am I safe with him, but I realize, as I've often realized before, how very blessed I am that God would give me such a precious gift. He is the most incredible husband, and when I see and talk to other wives, I know I'm blessed, I know our marriage is a rare gift, and I know that God has shown us favor, despite our imperfections. Few husbands help put up Christmas decorations and clean the house on Saturday afternoon, when they could be watching football or basketball. Few husbands load the dishwasher and remember to unload it a few hours later. Few husbands never grumble about taking out the trash, putting up the laundry, or going to the grocery store. And few husbands are both as strong and as tender as Hal is.

And laying there, crying, I thought of how horrible I treated him when we met, when we first dated, when I was so wounded and selfish. I thought about the journey we've been on, the journey I've been on for the last three years--learning what it means to love someone else, to put their desires and needs first, to be compassionate and considerate. Certainly, I'm no where close to "there," but I'm thankful for all that Hal has taught me. His patience. His grace. His understanding.

And laying there, crying, I begged God that He would give us many years together, that he would never remove his blessing and favor from our lives, and that the love I feel for him now would only grow stronger over the years. Maybe it's dumb that a Nicholas Sparks book, or movie I recently saw, would be the reminders that life is short, that he could be gone tomorrow--but if that's what it takes for God to get my attention, to remind me how blessed I am as a wife, then I will hold onto that. Because I am blessed-- after 1 year and almost 6 months of marriage, I'm still incredibly in love with my husband, and I am recognizing how very much I have to be thankful for the man that God gave me.