joy

You are Shining: Hope in Weakness

I was talking with another mom the other day about how pregnancy has a way of exposing idols that you didn’t even know you had. Idols of the heart in regards to appearance, comfort, expectation, the list goes on and from my understanding it never ends as you enter into the refining realm of childrearing.

This process of refining, in marriage, in friendships, in community, in raising babies is all designed for our good: that our hearts would be stripped of any cruches until our hope is in only Jesus. Peace for my heart and hope for my soul can’t be found in anything apart from him. All of these changes, all of these struggles only make that truth more and more real to my needy heart.

And I am so in need.

This morning I read about how in the beginning Jesus, fully God, was there and all things were made through him. In him was LIFE and this life was LIGHT for us. John writes, “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” This text fills me with so much hope. Not only does Jesus breathe hope and light into the darkness and depravity of my soul, saving me from what I deserve but he brings life even into the “little” dark parts of my day-to-day growing.

Hope springs up from seeing that light shines in my life and my own darkness can’t overcome it.
I can’t snuff it out.
Not my selfishness, not my anxiety, not my pride, nothing is so dark that this light keeps from shining the message of LIFE.

Remembering this is such an encouragement when it feels like the growing-pains of refinement are happening in every area of my life right now. I can trust that God will address the darkness (no matter how big or small it seems) with light. He won’t leave me to sort through my sin and the hurt it brings on my own but he’ll lead me; teaching me, growing me and restoring me.

As I write this I’m reminded of how someone once told me, “God isn’t worried about you. He isn’t concerned that you’re not going to make it; that you’re not going to learn.” Isn’t that true? God, Sovereign God, isn’t wringing his hands up in heaven just hoping that someday the scales will fall off my eyes, just waiting to see how everything turns out. No, he sovereignly ordained each and every spot of darkness for our good and his glory.

This I know that God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

 

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An Eternal Perspective in Birth & Death

[Note: I started writing an introductory paragraph for a post on Spinning Babies & Hypnobabies as I prepare for the birth of our little boy but then I got completely derailed by my own thought processes and taken on a sobering mini-journey reminding me of life, death & HOPE in GOD.] 

I can’t believe that this Sunday will be the start of my 7th month of baby-growing! Wasn’t it just Christmas time when we were sharing the news with our family & friends?

You grow up and people tell you to “enjoy the journey because it’ll go by so fast”. They talk about how you’ll blink and next thing you know your babies are getting married and having their own but that notion, that time would go by so quickly, seems so distant when you’re young with your “whole life ahead of you”. But then we talk about death and the brevity of life, how we’re strangers in this land, sojourners, just like all of the generations before us (1 Chronicles 29:15). Our life is just a shadow, a vapor that disappears as quickly as it came and we’re left cherishing the moments that remain. Because who knows, maybe you’ll die tomorrow. Maybe your whole life isn’t ahead of you.

There’s no guarantee that I’ll live to see my little baby boy grow up, that I’ll celebrate my 40th wedding anniversary or that I’ll even make it to dinner tonight. Every moment that we have really is a gift that God has allowed us to experience. Sure, we hope that our children outlive us and that we’ll die peacefully after 50-something years of marriage, holding the hand of our spouse but that isn’t always the case. Too often people are taken from this earth “too early” and suddenly, leaving us standing there seemingly unprepared and shocked.

But don’t you remember? We’re just sojourners passing through. This life isn’t our home. You dont know what what tomorrow holds. Your life is just a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

So we count the days and plan ahead with hope and surrender. Let this realization cause us not to cling to the things of this life too tightly lest we build up idols that crumble and disappoint. This truth should ignite a child-like trust that is dependent on our Maker for every moment, every need, every next step as we plan and anticipate our days here.

I’ve been reminded of this truth my whole pregnancy as I fight the anxious thoughts of pregnancy complications (my mind runs wild), as we dream as a family and wait for God’s provision and direction in this season. For those that trust in Jesus to pay their debts and cover all of their inadequacies that disqualify them from living eternally, life AND death are beautiful things. We struggle here now for just a little while with heartache and disappointment but we look with hope to enter into our real life in a real city whose builder and maker is God.

So even in the joy of feeling my baby move, seeing prayers answered and planning ahead for a gloriously bright future, I remind my heart that this joy is just a whisper of what’s to come for the people who belong to Jesus when we will live where there is FULLNESS of joy and pleasures forevermore. Imagine that!

Oh, that my joy in this (temporary) season of anticipation and desire for my little baby wouldn’t outweigh my joy in God and my desire for Him alone.

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Worship Music Collection Refresh: Vol. 2

I thought I’d share some of the albums/songs that have been playing on repeat lately in the background of this new season.

If it’s time for you to refresh your worship music collection then I’d highly recommend these additions in your music library!

All Sons & Daughters – I’m not usually a fan of live albums but I love the intimate feeling that they’re able to cultivate and convey in these songs. It almost feels like you were a part of the live studio recording, surrounded by sweet friends, singing your heart out. This is the perfect collection of worship songs to fill your candle-lit room with late at night as you’re winding down. There’s something about the sound on these recordings that makes you FEEL the songs of praise filling the room, it’s truly beautiful.

Matt Redman – We love to sing “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” around our house but the other day I had my Sovereign Grace station playing on Pandora and found his song titled “Never Once” and I can’t get enough!  Maybe it’s the lyrics that seem to hit me so deeply:

“Scars and struggles on the way but with joy our hearts can say, “Never once did we ever walk alone. Never once did you leave us on our own. You are faithful, God, you are faithful.”” 

That’s been my prayer so much lately, before I even heard this song, just praising God that He never left us to fend for ourselves. Over all these years and all these trials (that He worked for our good) He’s never left us; He’s always protected, provided and sustained us.

“Carried by your constant grace, held within your perfect peace: never once, no we never walk alone.” 

Meredith Andrews – Following in that theme of God’s faithfulness is this song: “Not for a Moment”. It sounds like the typical contemporary worship song (reminding me of Laura Story or Hillsong) but the lyrics are so true and good to remind your heart of:

“After all, You are constant. After all, You are only good. After all, You are Sovereign. Not for a moment will you forsake me.”

Rend Collective Experiment – I first saw Rend Collective Experiment during a worship night at a local Christian college in Minneapolis. They were the worship band opening up for Frances Chan and their energy and joy was infectious! I later purchased their first album, “Homemade Worship by Handmade People”, and it was the perfect little summer worship collection to dance around my house to (someone should put them on tour with Benjamin Dunn). I kind of forgot about them until my husband showed me this video from when they were on tour with Lecrae:

Then I stumbled upon this gem that they put out at the beginning of the year: Campfire. It’s basically the sounds of a friends praising Jesus around a beachside campfire. How perfect! Itunes introduces this album by saying that the new material is infused “with a foot-stomping energy that brings to mind the likes of Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers.”

Another great summer album but this time with more of an alternative, organic vibe. I love that Rend Collective writes Gospel-centered lyrics that keep you mindful of WHY we are free to experience such wholeness & joy.

What worship songs have you had on repeat lately?

The First of Many Lasts – Dealing with Change


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This was the picture that I was imagining as we stood in my kitchen tonight for the last time, praying for Tara and saying our goodbyes.

Tomorrow morning my best friend moves across the country.

In the midst of the sentimental nostalgia rushing over me as memories flashed like a video in my minds eye during our goodbye, there was a sense of peace knowing that this was a necessary, good thing. The best thing I could liken it to would be growing pains.

You know it’s good, you know it’s necessary and if you’re short like me then there’s an element of excitement but still…ouch.

It seems surreal to try and wrap my head around the fact that this might be the last time we ever live in the same city, that the days of lunch dates, girls night and our other adventures have come to an end.

This season is so bittersweet.

Tonight was the last night I’d have Tara in my kitchen- a place that holds so many of our memories from the last couple of years. It got me thinking that this was just the first of many lasts that are happening in this season as we prepare to make our own move.

Changes, shifting of seasons and times are inevitable. They’re not just something we anticipate but they’re necessary, they’re good and they create an opportunity for us to trust in the Lord and develop our strength of character.

As I say goodbye to my best friend, my family and the city I’ve called “home” for the last 5 years, with all of the details of our move and the months ahead still up in the air, my prayer is that my heart would be quick and willing to TRUST in God’s brilliant plan.

That’s the good news, the silver lining we see in change: that the God of all HOPE fills us with joy and peace as we TRUST in Him, so that WE can overflow with hope too. I can trust that in every change, in every bittersweet season, He is working it ALL together for my good. 

Christmas 2012

Christmas didn’t really feel like “Christmas” this year.

We celebrated the gift of Jesus humbling himself, coming to earth as a real baby, living a real life and dying so that we could truly live.

For some people, the greatest joy they’ll ever know will be what they experience here on Earth in this life.

This is it.
This is as good as it gets…

For those of us who hope in what we haven’t (yet) seen our joy we experience is just a glimpse of what’s to come.
The best day, the happiest moment, the greatest joy you’ll ever experience here on Earth in this life is just the beginning.

We were mindful of that this Christmas.
In the tension of joy and grief through suffering, the eternal perspective was the glimmer of hope in the dark season. It wasn’t unlike the star, in a giant, dark galaxy, shining over a manger holding newly birthed hope.

As far as the traditional Christmas celebrations go, everything seemed to just be off. It could’ve been because it was our first Christmas (Eric’s first Christmas away from home and without Danika) or it could’ve been because it was my first “Holiday” managing a store (and consequently not decorating my home) but I think it was mostly a combination of returning from California and realizing, in a storm of our retail jobs, that Christmas was just around the corner.

I did almost all of my Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve and came home to make (my tradition) Christmas Eve Fettuccine.

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We opened presents in the morning and spent the day at my parents’ house with my best friend, Tara.

It was quite the season this year. Very eventful but in all things we’ve seen God’s grace on our lives and the way he’s growing us.