Here's to missing turns, and a lifetime of unflashy love.

Dear Craig, When we started on this journey so many years ago, I didn't have the slightest idea that you would be the one who asked for my forever.

And now, here we are -- two years into marriage, and every second still feels like magic. Every second was worth the wait and the fight it took to get here. 

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You did not propose on Valentine's Day.

No -- instead, you made me wait nine excruciating days after, and all the while, I felt like I was about to burst.

See, the February you proposed, I was smack in the middle of taking a class on counseling and marriage. We read a book about how a woman's primary ministry should be to her husband, and yeah, it was conservative to say the least, and maybe the author had taken scripture out of context on more than one occasion. But as I was writing my paper on what it meant to be that kind of wife, the only thoughts I could muster were of how I didn't just want to be a godly wife, I wanted to be your godly wife.

I still remember your boyish grin when we accidentally missed our turn, and how in the entire time I had known you, you had never missed a turn. And I remember how just enough of the day didn't go according to plan for everything to be absolutely perfect.

There was no flash mob to some Hall and Oats song, no trail marked by rose petals. You didn't even prepare a speech.

It was just you and me, and a few curious onlookers who had been walking through the park.

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And on our wedding day, instead of talking about all the things love is or isn't, we chose to talk about what love does.

Love drives out fear.

Lord knows, I am fearful. But I am also learning what it means to bloom.

And I know over the next ninety-nine years, there will be a lot of missed turns. There will be mountains, but there will also be valleys. There will be sickness and health, plenty and want. There will be days when we just don't feel like it. There will be days when we fight with each other, but there will be a lifetime of fighting for each other. 

Our first act as husband and wife was to take communion together.

For I had received from the Lord that which I have also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 NASB)

Even in this, these final moments before the cross, Christ gave thanks. And there is no cross we could bear that He did not carry first on our behalf.

There is nothing flashy about this kind of love, the kind that bears burdens and makes the hard choice: the choice to serve and die a thousand deaths to self. But oh, the joy. Because at the end of the day -- at the end of every day -- there is no one else in the world that I would rather have beside me on this adventure.

When You Know its Time to Change Your Mantra

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Five of us women piled laughing into her great big sports utility vehicle. We had been in training together for four weeks, the latest of which brought us to the hustle and chaos of the city. We had taken turns driving each day to a different lunch destination, and as we pulled into the narrow space, I jokingly admitted that I would be afraid to drive such a massive car.

And then it happened.

The one in the front seat turned to me and said “you’ve got to stop saying you’re afraid.”

Ouch. Barely a month after meeting me, she speaks these words. And I wonder how many times a week — a day, even — I say that I am afraid. I know that I am an anxious person, but do I really let that anxiety overflow from my heart and through my lips often enough for her to pick up on it so quickly? I sit quiet though lunch, embarrassed and pondering.

Read more over at (in)courage

meditations on the symmetry of grace.

Jeff Goins says that social networking is much more than a conversation -- it is an opportunity to build something new. I'm trying hard to learn. But last week, another ugly headline shows up in my feed, which more often than not serves as a constant reminder of depravity rather than inspiration. A little boy bullied, no more an hour from my hometown; told that he is no good because he favors this cartoon over that one. And my heart gets heavy, because I've seen how those stories play out. I marvel when someone comments and grossly chalks it up to survival of the fittest, as if to say that the world would be better off without this boy and his perceived weakness. They say that at the end of the day, we're fallen and we can't change it. They say to try to blaze a new trail will inevitably lead to more hurt. I quietly tried to ease my acid stomach, fire and frustration rising in my gut. And I tried to shake off the feelings of responsibility, knowing that I contribute to and reinforce this kind of thinking every time the weird kid talks to me at Bible study.

Maybe I'm writing this because I'm tired of being fallen. Maybe I'm writing this to own up to all the excuses I've made.

As we traversed through the foggy darkness towards the comfort and warmth of home, my husband and I speak of redemption and light versus dark. Sunday morning, words of redemption and identity fill up a screen and flood through speakers. The soul inside whispered amen again and again.

Redemption: the act of purchasing something with the intention of setting it free. 

Frequently, I hearken back to the day when Professor Wanner shifted the cosmos of my life in fifty short minutes with his talk on redemption, and how, really, grace is symmetrical. 

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The whole of creation was redeemed through Christ's death and resurrection. Scripture says that we were purchased at a high cost. But the freedom song does not end there. True freedom is to fully live out our purpose. 

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When God said "let us make man in our image," He lovingly bestowed on humanity the ability and responsibility to take part in creation. It gave Him pleasure to allow us to share in the shaping of culture by expanding the kingdom-garden. Sometimes we look at culture as an ugly green monster that we must fight to overcome, rather than what it truly is: the overflow of our own hearts. We spend all of our time talking about how dark it is instead of assuming our true identity and purpose, which is to say let there be light. 

Maybe I'm writing this because I'm tired of a life spent basking in the darkness. Maybe I miss life with Him in the garden.

Let there be light in my thinking, let there be light in the words that I speak and the words that leap across this page. Let there be light in the way that I treat my husband and our families and friends. Let there be light in the way that I treat the girl at Starbucks who makes my coffee in the morning. Let there be light in the way I prepare for and raise my someday babies, who will, in turn, go forth and shape culture. Let there be light.

I am responsible for changing culture, and I have to start with myself. And knowing who I am begins with knowing who He is. There is no mystery or trickery to it. Knowing Him is never a game of hide and seek. The torn veil gave me access. The plan is outlined in His Word: to draw us to Himself, for His glory to be unleashed upon the earth in and through our lives.

It begins with believing what He says about me: that I am redeemed and restored. No longer am I a slave to the darkness. I am the vessel that God, in His infinite grace and mercy, chooses to use to make His appeal -- a minister of reconciliation.

It begins with remembering that the head of the snake has been crushed. The source of all my doubt, he slyly concocted a sweet recipe for my anxiety: can I really trust what God says? How great the lengths Christ went to in order to redeem that which had been lost. How unimaginable the depth of despair as He turned His face away so that one day we might see Him for who He is.

We cannot possibly understand who we are until we begin to grasp who He is.

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He could have just as easily done without me and my weakness. But in His grace, He chose me. He ran after me, relentlessly declaring love. Never ceasing for a moment to say remember, my love, who I created you to be.

 

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On Becoming Rooted and Established {A letter to my Husband on Valentine's}

Night before last, with your head on my chest, you told me you love the sound of my breathing. After three snow days worth of sleeping in, I felt fully prepared to write, especially when the post went live at 10:30 instead of midnight. But you, always the dedicated worker, always waking up before the sun, convinced me to come to bed. And when your sleepy head found my chest, I knew I was done for. There are no words for the way your breath mingled with mine, how your chest rose and fell, the feel of your skin. I could only whisper thank you, I love you, thank you. 

Love is always about creating space for the heart and soul to breathe.

One of my favorite lines of poetry says "beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and you hold me so well." Like the earth holds a seed, warm in the soil, and we have only begun to peek through.

The song we danced to at our wedding was about a garden, how it starts little by little.

We started the same way, remember? First as friends, without the faintest idea that we would someday wind up here. We stood by each other through the hard times, the quakes of life that seemed to very nearly do us in. And love grew. When we began to catch glimpses of who we would become, we prayed hard.

We promised before God and our family and friends that this journey would last until death do us part.

Through rich and poor, sick and healthy, every up and down. When my heart becomes overwhelmed, I always look to you.

Perfect love casts out all fear, and we are being made perfect day by day. Little by little. Less of us and more of Him.

We chose that passage from 1 John for the homily of the wedding ceremony. And oh, how my knees knocked as I could barely whisper the vows through the lump in my throat. I told myself I wouldn't cry, but even before I walked down the aisle, I was a mess.

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You took me anyway, in spite of my fear. And oh, how fear can grip me at times. But never for a single second have you looked at me as less. Instead, you've taken my hand and reminded me over and over again to breathe. 

You always remind me that this life is the greatest of adventures. And there is no one I would rather put down roots with.

I love you, forever and ever. What a blessing it is to tend and expand the kingdom-garden with you.

Five Minute Friday is for lovers, ya'll. This week, Lisa-Jo shared about how to get more passion in your life, and, well, who doesn't need a little more passion? 

On trusting and becoming beautiful.

everythingbeautiful Eleven days into the new year, and my one word is already proving to be more difficult than I had anticipated. I'm learning, soft and slow, that resting in the Lord is really only possible when you trust Him.

Trust that He is making this, making you, beautiful. 

I struggle to find the words hiding deep within my bones, because trusting is a process and truly seeing takes intention. Seeing takes slowing down, opening my hands + my soul to appreciate the mystery of grace. He leaves fingerprints behind as he molds us, tiny evidence that we belong.

Study God as Creator, because if He made you, then He can keep you, and if He can keep you, then He can always reach you. He is strong enough to love you. -- Andy Kerner

My friend's words resonate loud, conviction thundering as I work to put the pieces together.

It's right there: He who has promised is faithful. He's trustworthy, even when we can't see beyond our doubt. And when we bring our burdens to him, we find rest for our souls.

He is unequivocally for us. At our darkest hour, hiding in the Garden, He came to find us. And ever since, He has been drawing us back. Have my clenched fists suffocated the glory from the gift?

Beauty needs room to breathe. I feel the Spirit say, "can you trust enough to just let go?"

At the end of the day, its all so intricately woven together.

 

Linking up with some of the most gorgeous women over at Lisa-Jo's place today for Five Minute Fri(Sun)day.

Resting in uncharted territory. {Scripture for the 2014 journey.}

psalm1162Three hundred and sixty-five days lie ahead in 2014. Its a new chapter, a new opportunity to respond well to the truth of the gospel. But of course, no one really knows what these days will bring, and that lack of knowledge can be daunting. 2013, in all of its glory, was also a year that, for me, was marred by anxiety.

In the midst of it all, I was thrilled by the congruence of scripture. Perhaps that idea is elementary, but for me, it became revolutionary. I fell in love with the Word afresh and anew in 2013. I came to understand what it means to hide the Word in my heart. In Proverbs, scripture speaks of writing the Word of the Lord on the tablet of our hearts so that we will not stray.

This space, my writing, has ultimately become a note to self -- a reminder of sorts of the faithfulness of God. When life seems tumultuous, this is where I come, with my Bible and a cup of tea -- to whisper His love over and over. The white space, silent like a prayer closet, waits patiently for me to wander in with my words. And as I look back over the past twelve months of blogging, I see just how much the Lord has used 2013 and this place to mold me.

I wonder, was my choice to be anxious so much of the time really me trying to test Him? Have I only been dipping my toes into the pool of faith?

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there will be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty. -- Malachi 3:10-12 (NIV)

Its no secret: its hard to offer up our whole selves. Especially when we cannot see or touch Him. But even seeing and touching us didn't make it any easier for Jesus to offer up his life in our stead. Yet he said "not my will, but Yours." 

Oh, Love. Mercy, find me when I struggle to live out the Image.

The nations will call me blessed when I surrender to Him, the God who knows everything I need and desires to give me even more out of His goodness. And that goodness is constant. He does not change or falter. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. And He is the author, the perfecter: love incarnate.

He is before all things. What do I have to fear? This, this is how our souls find rest.

 Linking up with a host of beautiful people from all over the world for OneWord365. Have you chosen a word to focus on in 2014? Share it in the comments below!