Monday, November 16, 2009

Marriage Advice Solomon Style

Proverbs 16: 6
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.

When I first read this, I thought... if the person who sinned tries to love and remain faithful, their sins and wrongdoings will be covered. Eventually, that person's love and faithfulness will earn atonement. And then I thought about the God I serve. I thought about Jesus and how his perfect, steadfast love and faithfulness atoned for my sins on the tree. Immediately, my thought went to marriage and how this piece of wisdom could transform marriages. When sin enters (because we are all married to sinners), steadfast love and faithfulness keeps the relationship going in the presence of sin. When I hurt Justin or he hurts me, it is our love and faithfulness for one another given to us by the Spirit that allows us to extend grace and forgiveness to each other instead of bitterness and anger.

And our LORD... His majesty and splendor and glory helps us fend off send. Fearing Him turns us away from evil.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

the art of bowing.

This week... I have sought to meditate and focus on Christ as my King. I must admit that I really don't have a good understanding of the reverence owed to a king, especially the King of the Universe. Before a king, bowing seems appropriate but how often do we choose to bow.

This week, I had the privilege to attend a fast breaking ceremony at the University of Houston hosted by the Muslim community on their campus. Before breaking fast together, it was prayer time for the Muslims. I had the opportunity to meet some lovely Muslim women who invited me and the other ladies with me to join them in prayer. While I understood very little (the prayer time was in Arabic), I got to bow. I used my body... not just my mind... but my whole body to worship my King. As I bowed low... face to the floor... I imagined being before my Good King. I feared Him in that moment feeling a portion of the weight of his magnificent glory. And... then as I rose, I felt the victory of Christ, my Messiah. As I bowed again before the King, I felt immense gratefulness toward a King who would sacrifice so much for His name and for my joy! Thankfulness for grace and forgiveness... and for access into His kingdom! I rose again thinking of Jesus... thanking him for access to the King. And I bowed one more time, loving the King of the Universe... loving the King who created... loving the King who sovereignly predestined all things before the foundation of the world.

We really should learn from the Muslims... it makes sense to me to bow before my King.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Read Proverbs 30: 7-9.
Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, "Who is the LORD?" or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

What do you think about that? Do you ask for the same or more? What is the piece of wisdom that we should glean from this Scripture? What should this challenge us to do as we enter a season of giving?

I am reading a book called Simplify, and it teaches how to simplify life... taking out all the excess and leaving what really matters. I pray that during this Thanksgiving season you would weed away all that doesn't matter and find happiness in the Lord. All the things that distract, I pray you would have the strength to test them and if necessary, remove them. As you think about what is good and what needs to be weeded out, I give you a biblical standard from this book.
It challenges you to ask yourself four questions:
1. Everything is permissible for me- but not everything is beneficial (1 Cor. 6:12). So... are these things in you life helpful physically, spiritually, and mentally? If not, then they do not belong. This is super challenging for me.
2. Everything is permissible for me- but I will not be mastered by anything (1 Cor. 6:12). Does it (whatever it may be) bring me under its power?
3. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall (1 Cor. 8:13). Does it hurt others?
4. And lastly, so whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." Does it glorify God?
I am challenging myself to memorize the four steps and to ask myself those questions when I am tempted to eat, buy, or consume something that I shouldn't. I pray that you would do the same.

every day living.

I could easily define this past week with a plethora of words: distracting, restful, disgusting, tiring, hardworking, and yet lazy...

All in a week's work, I managed to:
1. Only work one half day.
2. Study for days straight for the special education test.
3. Take the special education test which took over four hours to complete.
4. Sleep in.
5. Go grocery shopping and by our seventh half-gallon of ice cream for our freezer (it was on sale... I couldn't pass up the bargain)!
6. Get sick and throw up; completely unrelated to #5 (the disgusting part of the week).
7. Take two naps in one day.
8. Go out to eat WAY too much.
9. Wake up slowly with my husband.
10. Paint some walls and cabinets at the Mayberry's.
11. Double date with the Mayberry's.
12. Try out my first and probably last cigar.
13. Watch my beautiful niece stretch and do rolls at gymnastics.
14. Wash one load of laundry three times.
15. Pray that God would be enough even if I have no clue what lies in the future.
16. Get my first register rewards from Walgreens... thank you Amy for teaching me the system!
17. Listen to Shane & Shane's new cd... by the way, it's amazing!
18. Have a date night with my hubby.
19. Share a meal with my husband at a restaurant and still have food to take home in a to-go box.
20. Seek to understand what it means for the Lord to be my portion, my sole satisfaction.

Monday, November 2, 2009

come celebrate with me...

So... we are entering the month of November. And... when I think of November, I think of cool air, colorful leaves, and Thanksgiving. I have had a desire for the past couple months to celebrate this holiday season very intentionally beginning in the month of November. I have a few thoughts driving me about this season of thankfulness and gratitude.

1. I have a yearning to live life fully, to be joyful in all things, to love deeply, and to walk authentically. I might not do a great job but I realize that I am on a journey of learning... and eventually, I will achieve a life of simple abundance.
2. Within each of us, we have a longing to be joyful. In the book Simple Abundance, the author says that there are "six threads of abundant living which, when woven together, produce a tapestry of contentment that wraps us in inner peace, well-being, happiness, and a sense of security.
3. This journey begins with gratitude.... which is what the Thanksgiving season is all about. Gratitude leads to simplicity (learning to value what is truly important and weeding away all excess). Simplicity leads to order which lends itself to harmony. Harmony gives us the ability to appreciate the beauty in that which daily surrounds us. And... beauty leads us to joy.

Let us celebrate this season well... for in it, I believe we will find true joy.
This holiday journey begins with gratitude... being grateful for all that God has given us, including and especially Himself. Therefore, I propose that each week we meditate on a characteristic of our God being grateful that He is father, servant, provider, master, king, creator, etc. to us. May we apply and learn to incorporate the disciplines of prayer, meditation, silence, celebration, and Scripture reading.

Along with this, I encourage you to think about what is really important in life... if anything stands in your way of focusing on that which matters, I hope that you would simplify and move closer to our goal of living full, intentional, joyful lives.

THIS WEEK: God as our Satisfier... or our Portion.
Here are some verses that might be helpful. As you read and pray this week, I encourage you to share with us via email other verses or thoughts.
Lamentations 3 (you have to read the WHOLE chapter to get the beauty of God as our portion...)
Psalm 16
Psalm 37
Psalm 103

Share... be grateful... live intentionally.

worship. know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge...

That changes how I should worship. I can seek to know, but the reality is that it is beyond comprehension. Together with all the saints... all of our knowledge together... all of us from around the world... Westerners and Easterners... young and old... conservative and liberal... all of us together cannot comprehend the love of the Lord, for it surpasses all knowledge.

Today, I want to worship with my mind, but knowing that is only one aspect of my being, I am praying that I worship with more than just my mind...

Lord, may I worship You with my mind, but also with my heart, soul, and strength. May the bride of Christ... the church be filled with the fullness of Christ.

real romance.

Last night, I felt so loved... so considered... so known.

Normally, when I get home, I am greeted with a smile, a warm embrace, and a sweet kiss from my husband. We spend a short time talking about our day and catching up. But last night was different, I came into an empty house... no husband, therefore, no smile, no embrace, no sweet kiss... and yet, I felt incredibly loved by him.

Before I left yesterday morning, the bed wasn't made, the bedroom was a mess, and everything was not in its place. I came home to a clean room... clothes put away, books neatly stacked or put on the bookshelf, bed made. There was a beautiful orange daisy sitting on my desk. I immediately felt loved. There is nothing like coming home to a clean home... quite refreshing. I opened my computer to check my email (a typical routine)... and then I saw his note. It was short and sweet but full of love. It was wonderful.

My beloved's thoughtfulness, his consideration of me, his selflessness took me aback yesterday. Thank you sweet husband.

Song of Solomon: The Marriage Conference

Husband and wife.
The relationship that should be marked by oneness and unity... two individual fleshes becoming one. It is the human relationship that is likened to the unity between the Father, Son, and Spirit... separate but one.

It grieves me when I see marriages ending or... just as bad, people settling to live unhappily married with their spouse. God has given us His word, specifically Song of Solomon, to teach us how to live happily together... to grow in oneness... to glorify God in our most important human relationship.

So what does this book that is often overlooked by churches say? What does it teach about sex? dating? communication? character?
1. The book begins in Song of Solomon 1 with the woman flirting or seducing her husband. She draws him in with her words... she is free, not fearing that her husband will call her names or laugh at her. She is free to initiate intimacy because he has encouraged, loved, complimented, and supported her. She did not necessarily look like all the beautiful women of her time but Solomon complimented her which lead her to be free and feel beautiful in her skin (i.e. she had dark skin and in ancient times only peasant girls had dark skin because it signified that she had to work outside... BUT Solomon liked her skin and he told her). Growing up, I did not like my high forehead and often slumped because I felt like I was too tall and lanky. When I met my husband, he found all of those aspects about me beautiful and made sure I knew what he thought. I am his standard of beauty... and his standard of beauty will change as I change. (Husbands, your standard of beauty is your wife...) He continues to verbally praise my body, especially the parts of me where I felt insecure. And the result... I feel free around him; I trust him and I have removed all protective defenses.
2. There are two possible types of people in a marriage: selfless and selfish. Marriage between two selfish people is often marked by unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Marriage between a selfish person and a selfless person often leads to abuse... the selfless person becomes the victim. Marriage between two selfless people is ideal... the way marriage was meant to be. Think about whether you are choosing to serve your spouse in all areas of life... are you choosing to consider their needs before your own or are you demanding to have your way?
3. Look at SOS 2:15- "Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom." The little foxes destroy the vineyard. In marriage, we all have little foxes, that if left alone and ignored, will eventually destroy the marriage. Foxes in the marriage can include things like children, health issues that arise in the husband or wife, or sin. If not brought to the light and discussed, the fox will destroy your vineyard (or marriage). What foxes are in your marriage? I spur you to find the foxes and deal with them now.
4. Remember that you married a sinner... and you too are a sinner. Therefore, may grace abound in your marriage. Jesus died for our sins... so, marriages do not need to die because of sins.
5. People invest so much time and money into a wedding in our culture; however, in the correct perspective, we should remember that the last day of marriage is far more important than the first. On the last day of marriage, what will your spouse say of you?
6. SOS is about King Solomon and his first love. Solomon had more money, wisdom, and power than we could imagine and yet his marriage fell apart. Over time, the beautiful union portrayed in the Song of Solomon crumbled... Solomon took on 700 wives and 300 concubines... What happened? His heart turned away from God. Sin destroyed. Remember, in your marriage, the same thing could happen if you stop walking with God and let sin continue to reign in your life. Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy... keep the foxes out of your marriage.
7. In SOS 5&6 we see Solomon get rejected by his wife. He comes knocking at her door and she refuses to answer. Selfishness is a sin in marriage; it divides, not unifies. A constant goal in marriage should always be oneness. Remember to be the servant... and if you stumble into selfishness, I pray that you would confess, repent, seek restitution with your spouse, and reconcile completely with him/her. If you are sinned against, remember that you too are a sinner. Just as you were freely forgiven, you too can freely forgive.

May purity, love, grace, and forgiveness abound in your marriages. If you have kids, I encourage you to talk to them about sexuality and healthy relationships. You have the power to teach them how to relate to their spouse as a servant.

May you strive to have God's best for your relationship...
Much love.

For more information about Song of Solomon, listen to Mark Driscoll's Peasant Princess podcast. Go to this link:

My hubby and Mark Driscoll

the prosperity gospel.

today, i read 1 corinthians 15:19- "if in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied."

if our hope and our faith is in Christ giving us worldly riches and health... if it is in keeping our family safe and out of harm's way... then we are among the most to be pitied here on the earth. when something happens: we lose our wealth, fame, and health, where are we to turn?

and, this is another reason why the prosperity gospel deceives...

Many Congratulations

My soon-to-be thirteen year old sister, Savannah, made the volleyball team at school. I hope this experience is full of fun, adventure, friendships, and sweet memories. Have a great volleyball season and many congrats! I am proud of you, and not because you made the team, but because you are becoming a beautiful young woman. Love you lots!

good byes are hard.

Tomorrow is now today. I look back on the past two days and wish that everyday with the Stephens family would have been spent as intentional as I have lived today. It was a hard day, an emotionally draining day.. but a beautiful day. I have a fuller understanding today of what it means to treasure things in my heart... like making lemonade with the kids in the middle of Pei Wei and hearing them say, "More sugar, please."... like chasing them around the house trying to catch their balloons before they fly too high... like waking Jack up and carrying him to the playroom because he was too tired to get out of bed and walk by himself... like having Ben sing "You Are My Sunshine" with me before tucking him in... like seeing Sophia bundled beneath piles of blankets... like hearing Jack try to say "Salamander"... like crying in the kitchen with Tess and Doris wishing that time would stop moving so quickly.

The past two days have been filled with sweet memories that have no price tag. I know that this good-bye is not final but the dynamics have changed. I did not lose a family today when I left, but I have gained a family.

So, good byes are hard... but beautiful.

Today and Tomorrow

Today, I loved well, celebrated lots, and lived big. Today was the triplet's third birthday. I got the privilege of spending the WHOLE day with them. I arrived with chocolate covered donuts with sprinkles on top and a present in tow. We went to Stomping Grounds in Sugar Land, and I chased them around. We ate at Chick Fil A... got ice cream... picked up cakes and balloons and then had a FANTASTIC birthday party!

I remember stepping into their lives a year and a half ago. I didn't know them and they didn't know me. They could only say two or three word phrases and we played together in a huge play pen. They could not run fast, swim, or tell amazing stories. And somewhere along the way leading to today, they stole my heart. Now, they have more freedom; they can run fast, swim, and tell amazing stories. They communicate with me, give me hugs, and laugh loud, hard, and often. I am so grateful for the grace of God to grow them into beautiful, happy, healthy, loving young children.

I am thankful for all the time spent with them leading up to this amazing celebration of their short life. Happy 3rd Birthday Ben, Sophia, and Jack!

Tomorrow will end my time with them as their full time nanny. My heart is heavy and my tear ducts full. I will miss tucking them in for a nap: praying over them, hugging them, and singing "You Are My Sunshine". I will miss sharing meals with them, playing with them, and telling them stories. I will miss teaching them, and I will miss them teaching me.

I know that I will get to see them often (as long as I am intentional about maintaining the relationship), but it is a difficult transition. I pray that God would help them transition well. I pray that God would continue to pour out His love on them. I pray they would continue to be raised to be joyful, obedient submitters to God. Holding them with open hands is hard but I am reminded often throughout the day that God is far more capable of loving and raising them (far more than I am). He is a sovereign, loving, and providing Father to them. And for that too... I am grateful.


Recently, I have struggled with finding contentment in life. Instead of celebrating other's successes, I have envied them... wanting their lot in life and not my own. I have asked forgiveness for my sin and have tried to seek repentance daily... striving to take captive thoughts. But, I always end up coming short; I seem to lose the battle. I begin wondering... why was I not given that opportunity? why do I look like this? why do I have this type of personality? (and the list continues).

Most of my lack of contentment is found with a job. For about a year and a half, I have been nannying three beautiful toddlers. There have been some trying moments, but every day I am grateful for them and their family. (I'll post some pics.) I would never trade the many things I have learned about parenting or the many hugs, kisses, cute phrases, etc. that the kids shared with me. I cry writing this because I love them so much. And yet, I still have struggled with being content. I hear thoughts in my head telling me that I am doing nothing with my life, that I need to grow up and get a "real" job, that I am wasting my college education. How can I be so confused... one minute, I am cherishing every moment I have with the Stephens family and the next I am wishing I was given another opportunity in life and envying what others have.

In a couple weeks, I will be moving forward and transitioning from being a nanny to being a substitute teacher. My heart breaks when I think about not getting to see the triplets often. I hear in my head Jack's voice, "Don't leave... stay with (or "wif" like he says with his lisp) me." I will miss this place I am in now and I wonder why I couldn't find contentment here earlier.

I think the solution is being grateful for all that I have been given even if I didn't think certain steps would be part of my journey. I never thought that these kids would have changed my life the way they did... I began nannying because I needed a job and it would fill the time as I looked for teaching jobs, but God had something different in mind. He taught me how to discipline children in love; He taught me how to make boo-boos feel better; He taught me how to slow down in life and play and enjoy the small moments; He taught me that I enjoy not being stressed out and overly busy in life; He taught me how to make my husband and family and friends priority... not my job.

I am grateful... and continuing on this journey of contentment.

Lots of smiles... you would miss them too, wouldn't you?

Disney Done Family-Style

In July 2009, my beloved's family and I boarded a plane headed for Orlando, FL in search of adventure in Disney World. We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and visited Typhoon Lagoon, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Downtown Disney with every waking moment of the day. Despite aching feet and drowsiness, we had a great time filled with lots of wonderful memories.
Day 1: We landed, checked in, swam at the resort, and went to Downtown Disney. We enjoyed a fantastic meal at Planet Hollywood.

Us the the lodge...

Yummy dessert at Planet Hollywood
(Sin of the week: Gluttony)

Day 2: Typhoon Lagoon- I drank so much chlorinated water in the wave pool and got sunburned on my face yet it was worth every minute. It was the best wave pool ever! That evening, we went to a Happily Ever After restaurant with the cast of Cinderella. We finished the day in the Magic Kingdom... we made it just in time for the parade!

Day 3: Magic Kingdom- Fun rides, a five-year old princess makeover, a little rain, and lots of magic and fun... and walking!

Minnie's House!

Princess Belle and Princess Lizzy (notice the blonde hair)

It's a small world after all...

Day 4: Epcot- More rides... more heat... more rain... but still fun!

Day 5: Hollywood Studios- Definitely one of my favorites! I overcame fears and rode the Hollywood Tower of Terrors... but I think it will be my last time to ever ride it. Quite terrifying! This park is geared more for an adult population so the rides were more thrilling. That night, we ate at the Sci-Fi Diner. The tables look like cars that are parked in front of a huge "drive-in" movie screen. Very neat! Another day filled with lots of walking, food, and fun!

Day 6: Animal Kingdom- My second favorite park! I conquered fears again and rode the Yeti ride. It was full of unexpected twists and turns! Then, there was the Dinosaur ride which was so terrifying that we have a picture of Caitlin, Amy, and I covering our eyes out of genuine fear. We had such a great time! After this, we went to Typhoon Lagoon and rode the waves, followed by an amazing dinner at an African-inspired restaurant, Boma, and then a final trip to Downtown Disney!

And one final favorite pic of me and my beloved...

Vacationing with the Mayberry's

In June, Justin and I met the Mayberry's at the Berkshires Resort in Massachusetts. We had a great week exploring New York City and Boston with dear friends. The best parts: enjoyable community, adventures in uncharted territory (at least to us), and the memories created.

Larry, Lindsey, Justin, and I in Central Park

Justin in Boston (Holding a book that really resonated with him)

Lindsey and I in Boston

happy first anniversary!

Our anniversary weekend began at an Astros game on Friday, May 22. Ashley, Melody, and I envisioned this as a triple date but when game time rolled around, their dates could not come. Nevertheless, it was still fantastic company!

Saturday, May 23- We decided to picnic in the park... in other words, Chick Fil A drive thru taken to Oyster Creek Park in Missouri City. Quite simple but always enjoyable...

On Sunday, May 24, our FIRST anniversary, we went to San Antonio after church. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on the riverwalk. After walking along the riverwalk, we ate dinner at a mexican food restaurant called the Iron Cactus. Favorite story of the weekend: Before the weekend began, my very generous boss told my beloved to take me to a nice restaurant and gave him some cash to make sure he followed through on her request. We went to the Iron Cactus prepared to enjoy a nice dinner with no concern for how much things cost (no ordering water for us!). We got seated and started munching on chips and salsa. My beloved wanted to order a drink to celebrate, and as always, I forgot my ID so I could not order a "special" drink. After about fifteen minutes of eating chips and salsa, we ordered an appetizer. The service was unusually slow so by the time we got the appetizer, we were not hungry. No entrees for us! So... the only time we went to a restaurant prepared for a hefty bill, we leave spending like $20.

We concluded our anniversary celebration by eating one-year-old wedding cake at home on Monday, May 25.

the first year...

Justin on his first day of school (as a PE teacher)- When we got married, Justin began his job search for his first "real" job and God proved (once again) to be our sovereign provider. After months of interviewing and waiting for Apple to call Justin back, his mom mentioned an opening for a PE position at Kirk Elementary. Less than a week later, Justin began teaching PE and what a great fit it has been! Praise YHWH!

Justin's Family Reunion (Wimberly, TX- September 2008)

2008 HBU Homecoming (first homecoming as alums)

Classic Crime Concert Getaway (Dallas, TX- December 2008)

Christmas 2008 (First Christmas as husband and wife)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

the beginning...

as of may 24, 2008, my life changed...

i married my beloved... my best friend, lover, encourager, confidant, and so much more. year one of marriage was a year full of joy, learning, challenges, and a lot of love. i only wished i would have better recorded all that the year entailed... first "real" jobs, our many getaways and retreats, first holidays as husband and wife, our first home, growing spiritually, learning to live intentionally, finding new passions, and figuring out possible directions for our journey together.

as we walk forward with open hands, may we be intentional with remembering the places along the journey.