Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Great Baker

As I sat on the steps of our apartment building after getting some discouraging news, I cried out to the Lord for help, the kind of help that I don't even know how to ask for, the kind of help I've found that he's the best at giving. I wondered to myself and to him whether this was ever going to get easier--will there be a time when something discouraging happens and I don't fall apart?

And in my mind's eye I saw myself, yesterday, standing at the kitchen counter with the boys, who wanted to make gingerbread cookies. We had a recipe, and it was going OK at first, but we got to the rolling-out-the-dough part and the dough was... crumbs. The recipe was similar to a biscuit recipe I use, which includes milk, so I slowly added milk and found the dough was actually holding together. But rolling it out was hard work. I kept having to add flour, even when I thought the dough wasn't sticky anymore. One more roll and I'd find a sticky patch somewhere.

We rolled it out the first time and cut out our cookies, then gathered the scraps together to roll out again. This time I didn't need as much flour. And by the fourth time, when all that was left of the dough was enough to cut out one little gingerbread man, we didn't need flour at all. The dough was smooth, easy to work with, the perfect consistency. I still had to roll it out with the pin, but I didn't feel like I was fighting against it.

I have the feeling that this is kind of what sanctification looks like. When Jesus regenerates our hearts and gives us new life, he has added that missing milk--now there is dough to work with. But we push against him, don't we? Even when our hearts are turned toward him, when the Lord comes to us to make us more like Jesus, we're not always willing subjects. But as the Lord refines us and teaches us and grows us through every trial, in the next trial, regardless of how difficult the trial is, we may find it a little bit easier not to depend on ourselves.

The gingerbread cookie analogy falls apart if you take it too far, but as the sun shone down on me this afternoon, my prayer became that the Lord would not stop sanctifying me. If this trial was hard, but I learned from it that my only option is to throw myself on Jesus, then when the next trial comes, maybe that will be something I choose to do more quickly.


2014 in Pictures

It's hard to believe 2014 is over already. What a year it has been! We started the year with me working full-time and Christian prayerfully wondering if a position at a certain church would work out. By the Lord's providence it did, and over the past 8 months we've transitioned into him working full-time and me staying at home. We moved into a new apartment. The boys continued at their preschool. We spent the summer swimming every day. It's been a good year!

January
It snowed, and Stephen turned 4!

February

March
I turned 28.

April

May
Christian started his new job, and Cohen turned 3!

June
We spent a ton of time swimming -- this is Stephen with my nephew Austin (11 months in this photo).

July
We went on a visit to Tennessee and visited some favorite spots, and Christian turned 28.

August
We went on our annual family beach trip to Florida.

September
Not a very happy picture, but I couldn't leave out documentation of our first broken bone. Stephen jumped off a piece of playground equipment and fell and broke his arm.

October
We celebrated Halloween with my nephews Van (3.5) and Austin (15 months).

November

December

Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sandstorm

I've lived much of my life basing my actions on my own perceptions, on my own understanding of my circumstances. But in the midst of a flurry of thoughts about various things happening in the life of our family right now, the groan of my heart was, "Where is God in all of this?" As I cried that out into my empty car on the way to pick up the boys from preschool, it felt like I was in the middle of a sandstorm, aware that God was elsewhere, above, beyond me, but I couldn't see him for all the dust that had been stirred up by my own sin and anxious thoughts, by fears for the future, by pain and sorrow and hurt and betrayal.

This week I heard someone say, "We have to stop looking at God through the lens of our circumstances and start looking at our circumstances through God's lens." I thought through that and prayed through that, hoping that maybe the answer would be for God to pull me up out of the sandstorm and let me see the big picture.

He hasn't done that yet.

What he did do, though, was enter into the sandstorm with me. (Or maybe, he was there all along, but in my anxious blindness, I couldn't see him.) The temptation to be anxious is still there. Hurtful words won't soon be forgotten. Nothing has changed, really. Nothing except seeing with the eyes of faith instead of these easily deceived eyes of sight. I still can't see more than an inch or two in front of me, and I'm praying moment by moment that the Lord would allow me to be faithful in every situation to which he calls me every day.

In most cases, I have no idea what that looks like. What does it look like to live in love instead of fear? What does it look like to extend grace to many, when you have received grace from few? What does it look like to be at peace in the midst of a sandstorm?

I hear that there are some within God's Church who would say that the gospel is the ABCs of the Christian faith. Once you 'master' it, you can move on to the 'deeper stuff.' I think in the past I may very well have been guilty of thinking the same. But the past few weeks have been greatly used by the Lord to teach me that I can't move past the gospel. If I move past the good news of a righteous God-man giving himself for me, though I deserved death and hell, then I am lost, and the sandstorm becomes all that I can see.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What We Are Doing: Seven Months Later

I have tried to start two other blogs in the time since I last posted here, mostly just to write about things of a more specific nature, but I think I've given up. I keep getting this itch to blog, but it feels too much to try to start something new, so here I am back at home sweet home.

So as not to bore anyone who might still be reading this, here is all that has occurred since March of this year:

  • Christian accepted (in March) and started (in May) a position as a pastoral assistant at a church not far from where we live.
  • I stopped working (June). 
  • We swam all summer long.
  • The boys started 5-days-a-week morning preschool (September). 
You're probably wondering what I've been up to since the boys are in preschool and I'm not working. Well, that's what I've been trying to figure out as well. I have been spending some time with a few people from our church. I have been cleaning out our attic and purging and simplifying our possessions. I've been running (sometimes). I've been meal planning and trying to maximize our budget. I've been reading (lately, about Russian history). Honestly, it's been very strange. I have never had so much 'free' time. Of course there is house cleaning and errands, and that takes up a few mornings a week. But I've been struggling with a bit of an identity crisis: Who am I if I'm not working? Who am I if I'm not actively mothering someone all day long? 

I have come to realize that I'm a doer. I don't do well if I don't have something to do. Even if the something is something minor, it's something. The boys have recently become very into the small Legos (up until now we've just had the big Duplo blocks), and for the first time I think I'm enjoying playing with them, because I get to do something. I've never been very good at imaginative play. But give me something to do with my hands, and I can sit there indefinitely. 

The past few days I have been struggling with a decision that we've already made but that hasn't come to fruition yet. The end result causes me a lot of anxiety. And in the meantime, other than prayer, I have found the only moments of peace come in doing. Today it was making a huge batch of bread sticks to put in the freezer. Sixteen balls of dough, rolled in between my hands, turned into narrow strips of bread. The other night, after a particularly difficult conversation with Christian -- not difficult because of him, but because of how much I was fighting the decision -- it was making the bed. 

So many more words to write, but for tonight, I think it's enough to do this. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Three Months Later

I came to the good ol' blog to see when the last time I posted was. It didn't seem possible that it was December 31, but I guess the blog posts don't lie. 


I tried to remember how it could be possible that I hadn't blogged in three months. I know it had been intermittent posting before that, but three months! Good grief!


The more I started to think about it, the more I realized why that might have been the case. Then I remembered moving. And how stressful my job has been. And suddenly it didn't seem so unbelievable.


These three months haven't all been bad, though. We had lots of snow days that were fun for the boys -- at our old house and at our new house. We've gotten settled into our new home, and the boys are looking forward to when the pool at our apartment complex opens in May.


Probably the biggest news, though, is that as of this week, Christian was offered and accepted a job at a church in Columbia. He will be the pastoral assistant for now, and he will start at the end of April. After 3.5 years of seminary, most of which saw neither of us with a reliable source of income, the blessing of this is hard to put into words.


My job will likely be over at the end of May (it is just a contract position), so at least for the summer, I will be home with the boys. The month of May will be a big transition as I slightly scale back hours at work while also getting back into stay-at-home mom mode. Christian has done most of the laundry, cooking, and cleaning for the past 7 months, so I hope those things are like riding a bike in that I haven't forgotten how to do them.


I have to say that I'm excited. I've now been on both sides, and I'll admit that the greenness of the grass definitely depends on your perspective. I can empathize with stay-at-home moms who feel like they're stuck at home in monotony, but I can also empathize with working moms who feel like they never get enough time with their kids. There are so many sides to that issue that I could probably help write a book on it at this point (though I'm certainly no expert!). I am hopeful that my experience will help me be more sympathetic to mamas I meet in all walks and seasons of life.

 Then there's the whole transition to having a husband in ministry. While I won't yet officially be a "pastor's wife," I've never been in a position like this in terms of Christian having an official pastoral role at a church. I will be honest and say I feel supremely under-qualified. That said, Christian bought me this book on the Kindle and I've really enjoyed it so far. On one hand, it is really encouraging. On the other hand, the seriousness of the calling on Christian and our whole family has become even more weighty. We truly aren't worthy.
Our boys are growing up. They are going to preschool four days a week now, and they love it. Stephen turned 4 in January, and Cohen will be 3 in just a few short weeks. I haven't had a baby in a long time, and now I don't even have a toddler anymore. We have had exactly three diapers in our house for about a month, the remnant of a package we never finished when Cohen decided to start wearing underwear at night. It's kind of hard to wrap my mind around.
They still love superheros, although Stephen has added "super transformers" to his list of favorite things, and Cohen has decided that calling himself "Super Batman" is far superior to plain old Batman. They generally play together really well, and the other day, Stephen said, "Cohen is my friend. He's my treasure."

The future is bright and hopeful, and we feel abundantly blessed.