Monday, May 31, 2010

Where is my hope?

Lately, I feel God doing a lot in my heart... a year ago, I had so much resistance in my heart towards God opening certain doors, primarily in moving overseas for an unknown period of time. It has been quite the journey... and has required a lot of processing. And, I know that I am only in the middle (or possibly even the beginning still) of a life-long journey. Thankfully, I have been given abundant grace. I have been given the gift of community... and without their encouragement and prayers and the Spirit's work, I would not be on this path.

This path is one of heart transformation. I see it and feel it and yet I still try to resist. Today, I started Colossians and read, "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven."

I continue steadfast in my faith in Christ and in trying to love other people intentionally and intelligently because of the hope in the present and especially the hope of the coming kingdom when the totality of God reigns.

But I have realized that either because of the resistance in my heart towards God opening some doors or a factor that contributes towards building the resistance in my heart is misplacing my hope.

So... is my hope laid up in heaven? Or... is my hope in things of this world, even those things that are good?
Where is my hope?

If my hope is not in Christ, the sacrifice will be too great.
If my hope is not in Christ, I covet, am jealous, and compare myself to others.
If my hope is not in Christ, I am not content with my portion.
If my hope is not in Christ, it all seems vain.
If my hope is not in Christ, I feel alone.
If my hope is not in Christ, I fear. I fear death. I fear people who are different than me. I fear failing. I fear other people's judgment. I fear losing the control that I never really had. I just fear.

But... when I see Christ before me and hope in the kingdom now and to come, all these things are gone... and I am free.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Two Years of Wedded Bliss...

I have been happily married for two years now. Sometimes it feels like I just met my beloved and other times I can hardly remember life before him. I have thought a lot recently about our beginnings... we met a little over five years ago. I thought he was handsome immediately... but we were no more than just friends. Throughout our first year of friendship, we lived in community together with other friends... sharing happiness, sadness, prayer, feasting, laughter, and tears. Christ drew us together slowly. And then we began dating... or really, courting. My beloved said last night that he knew shortly after we began dating that he knew we would marry. And... I felt the same way. We exchanged "I like you's." in April four years ago. It wasn't long before those turned to "I love you's." Then, two years ago, we exchanged vows to selflessly love each other always. It hasn't always been easy as two sinners living together makes for some challenges, but we continue to choose to love one another... and that has worked well for us.

(Our traditional anniversary pic... we took the top one this year, the middle one on our first anniversary, and the bottom one on our honeymoon!)

So... in honor of two wonderful years together, we ran away to Galveston for a mini vacation. The weekend entailed a lot of relaxing, some fun in the sun, a tandem bike ride, yummy food, some hard-core scrabble play, and lots of love.

The word of the weekend was flexibility. With the exception of one thing... I wanted to ride a tandem bike with my beloved. And we did...

As we were riding, my beloved and I began thinking. We thought about marriage, our distinctive roles as husband and wife, and how we related to one another as husband and wife.
1. I took the back seat; my beloved the front. In Ephesians 5, Paul tells us that the husband is the head of the wife. My beloved is the leader... and I am to submit to him as we both submit to Christ's lead. Along our ride, I could choose one of two views: I could either look at my husband's back or I could take in my view to my right and my left. Looking in front of me was not really an option. My beloved had to lead because he was the only one who could see where we were going, and in this instance, I had no choice but to submit. How often, as the wife, do I try to lead with my husband still sitting in front of me trying to fulfill his God-given role as leader of our marriage?
2. I admit that I would not ride a tandem bike with many (at least, not in the back)... and even if I were to ride, I believe I would be most comfortable with my beloved. But... why is that? It has to do with his character. Having someone guide you on a bike with traffic and the seawall dropoff is a little absurd if there were no trust in the relationship. Furthermore, as the backseat rider, I had no control over the direction of travel (the handles in the back are more just for looks... they were completely useless when it came to steering) and the speed (with the exception of slowing down slightly). I trust my beloved. I trust him with my life. How he treats me is selfless and loving. He has never hurt me and his desire is to protect my heart. I cannot tell you how many times in our relationship he has immediately gone into fighting mode to protect me (mostly, when I freak out over a bug... sorry !). Because of my beloved's trustworthy character, I could take in the scenery and enjoy the ride... I did not fear what was ahead because I knew that my beloved was a good leader as evidenced in our marriage and I believed he would take care of me.
3. As wife... as submitter to my beloved's leadership in our relationship... I learned some valuable lessons about my role as wife. While riding, I never had the final decision in which direction we were going or how fast we were traveling. If I wanted something, I had to present the idea to my beloved to be considered... we had to communicate! Most often, my beloved would naturally consider me and what I wanted. In the end though, he had the final say and I had to accept that (he had the handles that steered!). I realized how important my role as helper is in the relationship. As wives, we have the privilege to submit... hopefully, to God-fearing, prayerful men. Our husbands make the final decision but it is never without consideration of the wives. We are helpers... we are to listen to God too and to encourage our husbands.
4. In my role as my beloved's helper, I realize how much I can encourage or hurt him. Imagine how a husband would feel if he had to drag his wife around... and everywhere he led, she followed begrudgingly. It would be like me being on the back of the bike and not peddling at all or even worse, pushing the brakes while he was trying to move forward. Like I said before, I had no control over how fast we were going, but if I didn't help out... my beloved knew. His load was much heavier. And... it was even worse if I tried to brake. I could not stop the bike altogether by pressing the brake but my beloved would have to work that much harder to keep us moving forward. Imagine if I did not trust my husband on this ride or in our relationship, we would both be pretty miserable. I would always be nervous of where he was leading... trying to take the reins from him. And... he would always be dragging me along. This is not what God intended marriage to be! As wife, I get the opportunity to come alongside my husband throughout our daily life and lighten his load for I am his helper. In our daily routine, this might mean making him dinner after he had a really long day of work... this looks like me washing his work clothes and looking out for when he is running low so he never has to wear dirty clothes to work... it's the little places in life that I get to help (and sometimes the big places too).

The bike ride was just another mirror of what God intended marriage to be. I am grateful for this illustration. I am grateful for this getaway with my beloved. I am grateful for two wonderful years. And... I am grateful for everyday more that I get to be one with my best friend.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Summer Reading

So... I have been thinking a lot about my role as woman, wife, daughter, sister, and future mom (Lord willing). Work is a beautiful gift of the Lord... before the fall, God established that man was to work the field... "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it" (Genesis 2:15)... so, work is good. Because of the fall, work is hard... and from my experience as of late, it is hard to come by. I have been pursuing teaching positions for the past year or so. I recently interviewed at Creech for the fifth grade position. I got great feedback from the principal but I did not get the position (some one filled it in-house), but that does not take away the pain of rejection. The rejection I have had in looking for a job has lead me to seek peace alone in Christ, to look for God's will in my life, to look to Him for guidance and direction. I believe He has answered my prayer in giving me a heart to understand my role as female... wife, daughter, sister, and future mother.

After study and reading the Word, I believe that my role as woman begins in the home. I am to be homeward focused... this idea is very contrary to our culture and society. Sometimes, I feel such peace in fulfilling this God-given gift of being homemaker (for not all women can choose to stay home and work part-time) and the other half of the time, I feel like I should be working full-time, using the degree that I worked so hard to achieve... feeling like I need to fit in. But is that what I am called to do as a follower of Christ? Fit in society and culture... or does God call us to be in the world but not of it? To love the world like Christ but not live like the rest of the world? (I want to say this is what I believe for myself... as a woman, if you choose to work, I am not judging you or saying that you are wrong for wanting to work... this is where I am personally.)

So... here are things that have brought me to the conclusion that I should first and foremost have a homeward focus...
1. Proverbs 14:1- The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.
2. Of course the example of the Proverbs 31 woman- a few examples, "She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens"... "She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy"... "She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet"... "She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue"... "She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her"...
3. 2 Timothy- Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

So those are just a few examples... now when I mean a homeward focus, I do not mean that women should stay in the house and only focus on the chores... what I AM saying though is that it is God's gift to women to prepare her home to love others including her husband, her children, her family, her friends, her poor and needy neighbors, etc. I believe my role as a homemaker is to TEACH: women younger than myself, women who are preparing for a stage of life that I have already experienced and learned from, my children (even though they are not yet here). I believe my role of homemaker is to be HOSPITABLE: to open my home and be prepared for guests... to welcome them in and share the love of Christ by being genuine and authentic and living life WITH them. I believe my role as homemaker is to STEWARD: in Proverbs 31 it talks of the woman being wise with her resources to best benefit her family and the kingdom... it is my role in the house to be a wise steward of our resources whether that means coupon-ing, buying things on sale or at the end of the season, preparing meals in advance, etc. I believe my role as homemaker is to LOVE: to walk alongside people who are hurting or celebrating and share life with them.

My husband has blessed me this year by allowing me to work only part-time. In the meantime, I have gotten to live in rich community with some precious friends. I have gotten to partake in the gift of living life with people... it is a priceless gift that is invaluable.

Some women have jobs and I believe that you can still be focused on the home... but I pray that you think and be intentional about being a homemaker. What does it mean to steward your resources well? To love other people well? To welcome people in your home and serve them and let them live life with you? To love your children well even if you don't have any yet?

I am not sure what this means for me when it comes to a job. I have sought out jobs and one has not come up. If a teaching job doesn't happen, I know that my time will be spent loving people, preparing to love people, and choosing to intentionally live life with people... for this is my biblical role as homemaker.

So... for summer reading, I am preparing. I am preparing to love the children in my life now and my future children. I am going to read Treasuring God in our Traditions by Noel Piper... I want to celebrate all days in the year intentionally always pointing to God and rejoicing in Him by being grateful for what He has done for us. I believe that holidays and everyday will look differently after I read this book. The other two books I want to read are geared at raising children. One is called Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware. The goal of the book is to teach parents and those who know children how to share the greatness of God with children in a way that they will understand. We are encouraged in Deut. 6 to diligently teach our children to love the Lord and obey his commands... that His words shall be everywhere throughout the day... as you sit, rise, walk, and as you lie down. And the final book is called Instructing a Child's Heart by Tedd and Margy Tripp... it is the sequel to Shepherding A Child's Heart (which I would highly recommend). Another book about how to raise up your children in a God-fearing, God-loving home.

I don't have children and don't know when I will but it is never too early to start preparing myself to be a great mother and wife. And... right now, I can practice sharing the gospel with children who are in my life that I love... I want them to know the Lord too!

At the end of my life, I will be pleased if I, like the Proverbs 31 woman, have my children rise and call me blessed and my husband also... not for my glory but for the Lord who deserves all the praise!