Monday, July 21, 2014

After a Season (or two) of Hibernation

My, it has been a long time, hasn't it? And, oh, the things that have happened since you and I last visited!

In short, I met and fell in love with a wonderful man and we were married almost 3 months ago. That is the short version of a long, complicated and beautiful story. A story of God's faithfulness in the face of our doubt. A story of God's provision in the face of our distrust. A story of God's redeeming our hearts in the face of stubbornness.

I was drawn back here today, not really sure why. Reading through some old posts, I began to smile at the different ways that God has revealed Himself to me. It is fun to remember those things, isn't it? Reminiscing over those times brought me back to the present, where July 21st will always be a reminder to me of God's presence and leading my life. Why, you ask? Let me tell you a story...

A little over a year ago, my now husband and I were calling off our wedding. We were done, our relationship was not what it should be and God had taken a back seat. Ryan was more ready for the parting of ways than I was (that's not to say it wasn't hard for him, but praise the Lord for a man who can face uncertainty and hard times by following His leading!), but we both knew it had to come to an end. What a strange place to be in - Ryan was not just my fiance, he was my best friend. How do you move on from such a thing without your best friend? I was lost and completely heart broken. Having never really experienced this before left me even more confused. How was I to ever move on? What would our relationship look like in the future? Could we still be friends? If not, how would I ever learn to live without his friendship, sense of humor, goofiness, honesty, and sincerity? (as a side note, even though we are married now, I still get choked up thinking about this time - I would never wish something like this on my worst enemy!)

And that is when I learned what it means when God meets us right where we are. He climbed into my brokenness and lostness. He didn't pull me out right away, but rather stayed with me there and let me experience the fullness of what had happened. Partially, I believe, as a natural consequence to decisions I had made - this was the result of that. I also believe he let me stay there for awhile so that I could truly see my need for Him in order to move forward. To see where I need Him to complete me - not just in the immediate moment, but my real need for Him to be my all in all, regardless of who I do or do not marry.

Lessons taught by God that center on romantic love have got to be the hardest. At least at this point in my life, that is how I feel.

At the time we called off the wedding, our future was uncertain. We had no reason to believe we could stay together, there was just too much that wasn't right. We were too far removed from what God wanted for us. But that's the beauty of love of Christ. Love given through sacrifice is stronger than anything I have ever experienced and has a power far beyond what we have the ability to comprehend.

Our story is just one of many, so please don't take ours as license to continue in a relationship that really does need to end. That is something only God can reveal to you. (another side note, and really, only God can reveal that to you. It is hard sometimes for friends and family to accept God's will for our lives, even more so than the difficulty we have in accepting it for ourselves at times. Just be sure you know you are really listening to the Lord's voice)

That said, I firmly believe that God laid it on both our hearts to separate for a time because He had a work to do that would get us back to where we needed to be. The ways that God spoke to us when we were apart and even more so when he drew us back together still floor me. The way His plans come together in His timing is truly something to behold.

Why do I bring up all this heart break, tension and hard memories? Because a year ago today, God gave us the go ahead, promising to be with us every step of the way. Ryan and I both resolved to do our part, with God going before us. To move when He moves and to stay when He stays. The months that followed were not void of tension, rather they were full of the grace that restores and the love that frees us to be who we were meant to be, even when we don't see eye to eye. And let me tell you, grace and love make all the difference.

I have often been reminded of this passage of Scripture. It may seem harsh, but until you really understand God's heart for us (something I will forever be working on), you won't be able to see the beauty of His plan. If we need to be broken so that we can be restored properly, He will do it. And how sweet it is to live in a restored, right relationship with God and with those around us.

"Blessed is the one whom God corrects;
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty,
For he wounds, but he also binds up;
he injures, but his hands also heal." ~Job 5:17-18

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Not-So-Secret Family Recipe

Do you ever have an idea so engrained in you and you aren't really sure why?

For example: I could have sworn that my Grandma Smith's graham cracker pie was a secret family recipe. I found out today that yes, it is a family recipe, but it is not a secret.


It does take a bit of the mystery and excitement out of life, but on the other hand, that means I get to share this deliciousness with all of you and you can share it with everyone you know - yay!

Here is the recipe as it was given to me by my mother:

Grandma Smith's Graham Cracker Pie

30 graham cracker squares, crushed
1 1/2 C brown sugar
6 Tbl butter - may be melted

Mix well together. Reserve 1 C of mixture, line 2 pie plates with the balance.

1 1/2 C brown sugar
4 HEAPING Tbl flour
6 egg yolks, well beaten (reserve egg whites)
4 C milk
2 Tbl butter
2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt (approx 1/8 tsp)

Cook in double boiler until thick. Use beater occasionally while it cooks to make a smooth pudding. This can take quite awhile, as much as a 1/2 hour. Pour into lined pie plates while pudding is hot.

Beat the 6 egg whites until stiff. Add 6 Tbl powdered sugar and spread on top of pies, sprinkle remaining crumbs on top of meringue.

Bake at 325 degrees till meringue is browned.

Additional notes:

From Grandma Smith - don't be afraid to heap the tablespoons of flour. I start the pudding cooking and then make the crust. You don't have to constantly beat the pudding. Just use a hand mixer occasionally until it is thick.

From Mom - don't make substitutions in the ingredients. Always use brown sugar in the amount listed. Granulated sugar will not work. I wouldn't try any of the sugar substitutes, either. You can use margarine in place of butter. I'm not sure about using skim milk, you might not want to do that. If you don't have a double boiler that's big enough, just set a saucepan inside another larger pan with water in it. That works just as well. This sounds complicated, but it really isn't. Just read it all the way through first before you start. You'll do fine.

Thanks Mom! It turned out just right!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~Hebrews 12:1-3

I spent some time reading over this piece of Scripture today. I wasn't intending to read this passage or to even write anything, but so much for intentions, eh?

I was actually reading over some of my older blog entries. It's kind of fun to go back and read and reflect on what has gone on in my life and to remember the ways that God has shown Himself to me. I came across Hebrews 12:1 in one of my notes and it really struck a chord with me. I looked up the passage and ended up reading the first few verses several times.

As I was reading I was reminded of the sermon at church today. I don't know if I was reminded so much as convicted. Pastor asked us at the end of the service to leave something behind before we left. Something we needed to let go of permanently. I struggled to come up with something. So I just left. As I read the passage above I felt that all too familiar conviction flood through me.

Who am I to think I haven't got anything left to hand over to the Lord? I'm still a work in progress. I knew that I didn't really want to think about it, much less part with whatever it was, so I shrugged it off. Ah well, praise God that He doesn't just let us continue on as we are!

Anyway, back to whatever the point is I'm trying to make. I have been incredibly distracted lately. These verses remind me that I have to get rid of anything that is coming between me and the Lord. That is what I should have left behind today. My thirst for Christ seems diminished lately and I know it's because I've been replacing my regular time with Him with other things. Things that don't satisfy. I wish I could say I was filling my time with awesome things, but really, it's dumb stuff like reading a book instead of my Bible or watching a movie instead of spending quiet time in the presence of my God. It's funny, but you would think I'd have learned by now that substitutions just don't cut it. Maybe that's all a part of the journey...wish it could be a lot smoother instead of all these bumps though. Maybe the stumbles will come fewer and farther between.

This morning we sang the song 'I Will Never Be The Same Again' and one of the other singers said during practice, 'Thank goodness I will never be the same!' I echoed the sentiment, but it really got me to thinking. It can be easy to feel like we've never changed when we're stuck in a rut spiritually, but I think it's healthy to spend some time, every once in awhile, thinking about where you might be without the Lord. When I put it in that perspective, I can see His hand so clearly. So yes, thank goodness I will never be the same!

I think the moral of today's story is that I have some tidying up to do; I've been pretty parched the past few weeks! I am excited that my eyes and heart have been opened and so grateful for a Savior that gently moves me back into His arms.

Pastor shared part of Psalm 63 during church today. I love the Psalms. They convey such a depth of passion that few of the other books of the Bible can. I'll just end with this passage. This is the cry and desire of my heart.

God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You.
I thirst for You;
my body faints for You
in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.
So I gaze on You in the sanctuary
to see Your strength and Your glory.

My lips will glorify You
because Your faithful love is better than life.

So I will praise You as long as I live;
at Your name, I will lift up my hands. ~Psalm 63:1-4

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When Life's a Bear was a BEAR! One of those days where I just don't know if I'll make it through. All in all, I'm doing pretty well, but it seemed like everything was coming at me at one time and I just wanted to laugh at the absurdity and cry at the insanity of it.

I remember getting in my car after work and having the sudden urge to just drive until my car ran out of gas and hope that I ended up somewhere far away. Since I would have made it to about La Center at best, I reconsidered. As I started my car, a familiar song began playing on the radio. The reason it was so familiar is because, literally, the last 4 times I've gotten in my car, this song has started playing.

I just love how God works. I think that song has been on each time I get in the car because God knew I would notice the pattern today. And today is exactly when I needed to take this message to heart. It may seem odd to the rest of you, but God knows how my brain works.

I hope that this song encourages you too. When it seems like life is too much to handle, that's okay! God knows about it and He is more than able to walk us through. His promises are sure and His strength unending. Our help is, indeed, on the way.

"Rest in God alone, my soul,
for my hope comes from Him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will not be shaken.

My salvation and glory depend on God;
my strong rock, my refuge, is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts before Him.
God is our refuge."

~Psalm 62:5-8

My foes are many, they rise against me
But I will hold my ground
I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm
My help is on the way, my help is on the way

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

Troubles surround me, chaos abounding
My soul will rest in You
I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm
My help is on the way, my help is on the way

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
From You Lord, from You Lord

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always, always

"Always" by Kristian Stanfill

Friday, April 1, 2011

Social media is a contradiction of terms

About 3 weeks ago, the teen girls in the Sunday school class I co-lead opted to do a media fast for 1 week. This was part of a series of challenges we did over a 10 week study on the beatitudes. The particular focus of the week we did the media fast was 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.' (Matt. 5:8) This was a great challenge for reflecting on the things that influence us most and how it affects the purity of our minds, hearts and spirits.

I was humbled to realize just how much time I was devoting to certain types of media, especially facebook (this was what my focus was, specifically, during the week). I was surprised to find that after about 24 hours of fighting with myself not to get on the computer, it really wasn't a struggle. It was refreshing to see the world around me, what is right here in front of my face and not only be aware of it, but to find that it was better than what I had previously thought was so awesome.

I had wanted to write about my experience that week, but I didn't have it all pieced together. I felt like there was so much God was trying to say to me and it was this sort of mish mash, but I've been sorting through it.

First, I don't know that I've ever experienced such a consistent sense of the Lord's presence than I did during that week. Because I was choosing to be more aware of what was going on around me, I could see Him everywhere. I had taken off my blinders and there He was.

Again, at many times during the week I just shook my head at myself and said, 'Really? This is what you've been spending your time doing and THIS is what you've been missing out on?'

Who would have thought that social media would make one more shut off to not only life around them, but also to the Lord's voice. I was more interested in what almost 500 other people had to say about every little detail of their lives than in pursuing intimacy with my heavenly Father. It just sounds weird even saying it, but that's what I was doing!

Not only that, but the Lord really convicted me of how I was using facebook. I thought I was doing pretty good...I had already stopped complaining about things through facebook for the most part (something I was convicted over last year) and instead chose to use facebook as a place of encouragement. I could post Scriptures and links to uplifting was great. And it wasn't that I shouldn't be doing those things, but I found that when the Lord was really speaking to me or I had seen Him working in me and in the lives of those around me, I would post it on facebook first.

In those moments when I knew God was moving or laying something on my heart, I would tell the social media world about it first instead of thanking Him for the gift of His presence. For the blessing of seeing His hand moving. For speaking to my heart through His Word and through worship.

Instead of pursuing His heart further and offering gratitude, I would truncate our communion and rush to post a Bible verse or song lyrics on my page. Yes, it was from a heart that wanted to encourage others - I had just experienced the Lord and who doesn't want to share that? But at the expense of cheapening my relationship with the Savior? Whoa.

I was gone from facebook for 7 days. One week, people. And in that short space of time I saw an outpouring from the Father. I felt His presence like never before.

'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.'

And I did see Him. And I want to see more of Him.

On another note, I realized something else during this fast. Just kind of a bigger picture sort of thing.

Being so connected to so many people and having access to 85 million news channels, websites and blogs is INSANE. Humans were not designed to be all-knowing. Only the Creator is omniscient. How overwhelmed do you get when you watch the news or try to keep up with all of your friends' status updates? We weren't made to see the big picture! God is aware of all things at all times and that's cool with Him. It causes the rest of us to explode.

Not to mention, when we are so worried about the entire planet all the time, what happens to our closest relationships? They suffer. We are no longer able to give ourselves over to true intimacy with those nearest and dearest to us. We can't be as compassionate as we need to be to those who are struggling within our arm's reach because we are setting our sights on people and situations that are out of not only our control, but our sphere of effectiveness.

I don't want anyone to take this to mean that we shouldn't know anything about the world around us or try to help others that are outside of our local region, but don't forget about your neighbors and family and friends because you're caught up in the barrage of information that comes at us from every angle 24/7. Take some time to unplug...remember who you are and Whose you are. Go out with a friend and find out how they're really doing. Take a meal to someone from church who's sick. Babysit for a couple who desperately needs a break.

It's so easy to offer our sympathies over facebook, but how about turning off the computer and offering a solution.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Love is just a word...until someone comes along and gives it meaning."

I saw this quote today and at first I just kind of rolled my eyes.

I roll my eyes a lot on Valentine's Day.

I think the idea of Valentine's Day is pretty solid, but it doesn't translate well to reality. I have never had a Valentine so I can't speak from experience, but I can't imagine that the gifts and flowers and dinners mean more today than any other day of the year. If anything, it probably means less because so many people participate in the holiday out of obligation. Or maybe that's my cynicism speaking.

I think the reason I can be cynical about Valentine's Day is because it's a holiday that puts so much emphasis on only one aspect of love: romance. Why don't we have holidays that celebrate other characteristics of love? Compromise Day. Sacrifice Day. You don't see those holidays anywhere. Perhaps I'm jaded because I'm single...who knows. :P

Anyhoo...I could go on all day about Cupid and his special day, but that's not why I'm writing today.

Back to the quote. I rolled my eyes initially because I read it as only a mushy quote for mushy people on a mushy holiday. However, upon a second reading I found it to be a simple, yet profound, statement. And I find it to be a statement that is applicable to everyone.

I am not married, I am not dating anyone. Yet, I have met someone who has given love a meaning that no one could ever come close to. Scripture says that God IS love. It also says that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends, something the Jesus himself did for us. I have experienced love in the fullness of what it is because love has shown Himself to me. I wouldn't trade that for 100 Valentine's Days with the man of my dreams!

I have a deep desire for marriage and family, but I know that without Christ, it is meaningless. Knowing Christ now gives me the patience to wait for all He has planned for me. If any encouragement can be taken from this, I hope it's that you can know a true, full, perfect and never-ending love right now. Don't miss what's right here because you're looking for fulfillment in a person. God created us for relationship, but first and foremost, that relationship is with Him.

"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loves is born of God..." ~1 John 4:7

Monday, January 31, 2011

No song...gasp!

I apologize for the regrettable, but necessary lack of posting since, oh, August. For anyone who still happens upon this little corner of the internet that I call my own, hello. :o)

I'm afraid I haven't got a ton to say, but I wanted to dust off the page and update it a little bit and bring it into the new year.

(And as the title says - there will be no song in this post! Am I turning over a new blogging leaf? Who knows...I kind of hope not though :P )

The past year of my life has been an incredible mix of ups and downs, brokenness and healing. The constant through it all has been the Lord and His faithfulness to me. I can look back on all that has transpired and see His hand guiding me all the way, drawing me ever closer to Him. In fact, there were several events this past year that I truly believe if they had not happened, I wouldn't have been able to move closer to Him. Some were painful, but when the end result is intimacy with Christ, it's okay.

I had had the gnawing feeling early last year that if some of my past wasn't resolved soon, I would arrive at a bit of a standstill with the Lord. I certainly didn't want that, but I didn't know how to even begin unpacking that baggage. I remember spending much of the first few months of the year pleading with the Lord to show me what to do. It really felt like He was being silent, but I continued to ask. I spent time in the Word trying to glean some new wisdom and direction, yet both were elusive. I began to feel the Spirit impress on me that I needed to wait, just a bit longer. That wasn't really to my liking as I still couldn't see how this was all going to work out, but not really having any other choice, I waited.

About mid-year, the Lord moved in a way that I couldn't have anticipated and yet, per His usual way of doing things, it was the best possible way. I saw my God step in for me and guide me, undeniably, to a place of healing and forgiveness. I can't even describe to you what that moment was like. All my time spent pleading and praying and digging into the Word was my way of trying to make something happen. I thought if I prayed and read enough, God would have to listen and respond. It amazes me that I still think this way from time to time!

What He truly desired of me was to seek Him, not just the answer I was looking for. I had spent so much time and energy focused on the issue at hand and not the Lord Himself, that I had lost sight of abiding in Him and waiting on His timing.

It can be easy to forget that we aren't the only ones who hurt when we go through difficulties - God is right there with us, His heart breaking with ours. He desires our healing as much as, if not more than, we do.

My small group has been studying the book of Zechariah and last week we happened upon a verse that has helped me a lot over the years and as I read it now, I find peace again.

"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'If it is too difficult in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, will it also be too difficult in My sight?' declares the LORD of hosts." ~Zechariah 8:6

The Israelites were returning to the Promised Land from exile in Babylon. They were fewer in number and had a massive rebuilding project ahead of them. What seemed impossible to them is not impossible with the Lord. He doesn't bring us to the place He promised us and then leave us to figure out everything from there. He brings us to Himself and restores us and stays faithful to His promises.

Yes, it's been a difficult year, but where I stand now has made it worth the journey.