Saturday, April 18, 2009

Wedding Season

Wedding season is fast approaching. I've already received some beautiful save the date cards from kids that were in grade school when we moved here! And since this post is going to talk a lot about weddings, I am tempted to put one of my wedding pictures on here but I don't think digital cameras existed when we got married so all I have are prints and negatives and what good are those?

Purity is definitely something I want to instill in my kids. In fact, I have all the stuff for "Passport 2 Purity" sitting on my shelf waiting for the chance to take Jenna away for a day or two.

Purity is also something that I was taught: Sex outside marriage is a sin. Got it. But I think what drove me to be serious about purity was pretty legalistic. It had more to do with being good and not getting pregnant and pleasing my parents and church. Not that there isn't a place for that kind of extrinsic motivation.

On the other side of the coin, I have a friend who said she didn't feel beautiful on her wedding day because of her lack of purity. Her husband hates it when she says that. She may have been taught like me that it is almost an unforgivable sin. However, God forgives. He forgives the fact that I have impure thoughts just like he forgives impure actions. 1 John 1:9 anyone?

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just
and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

In the last week of Bible study on Corinthians we read this verse:

2 Corinthians 11:2
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.
I promised you to one husband, to Christ,
so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.

Paul is telling the Corinthian church that he wants them to love Christ most. He wants them to be reserved for Christ and Christ only without blemish.

As I teach my kids the Godly value of purity , I want them to see it in relation to Christ and the church. Yes, there are consequences to bad decisions. But more importantly, I want them to see the joy and anticipation of the church, perfect and pure, being presented to Christ. And what a beautiful picture that is.

In my own personal battle against sin, this gives me reason to fight the good fight of faith. Sometimes I let myself question and wonder why I care if I do a few bad things here or there. I might think a bad thought or have a bad attitude or talk bad about someone else, but it's not as bad as SOME people. That, my friends, is spiritual pride. Sin is sin to God. And this verse shows me the non-legalistic motivation for staying sin-free and confessing my sins: a coming reunion with the ultimate Groom, Jesus Christ.

I remember in the weeks leading up to my wedding going to hear a friend sing at her church. She and her mom looked at me and smiled. They said, "She's glowing!"
All the months of preparations were about to come to fruition and I was about to burst with joy.

Oh do I want to be ready! I want to feel beautiful and be free when he comes for me.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Keep on Keeping On

Even though the other day was a breakthrough of sorts, I figured I better prepare to battle for joy again. It was unseasonably warm for April in Northern Minnesota. After I got the kids off to school, I cleaned up and packed a picnic. The little girls and I headed out to our ECFE (Early Childhood Family Ed) with Annie on her bike and Maren in the stroller.

This was my view most of the way there. I could look at this all day.

We picked up Mike and got to the park with only slight battles about the stroller ride. But once we got there Maren was a maniac on the big slide!

We ate our sandwiches and drank our Big Bird juice boxes.

We dropped Mike off at the office and scored a Diet Coke out of his fridge. Annie brought it home in her basket.

Maren fell asleep and Annie got tired of riding bike. I carried her at the end.

I think they were worn out when we got home.

I think everyone had a joyful day.

Today it's cool and cloudy. Mike is at a funeral and I'm trying to clean house a little. The kids love helping out with that... It's just another day to keep on going, keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus.

Surprised By Grace (again)

Everyone has those low times in life, when you're unhappy or overwhelmed or disappointed or just can't quite put your finger on it. It always takes me by surprise when it happens to me. And since I was just writing my thankfulness list I feel like a real bum for being bummed. There are a lot of other people that have it worse than me for sure. But that doesn't change the way it feels. So, please, insert your "stuff" as you read.

I am fried, spent, fed up. I am fighting with a toddler and ... I'm losing. Screaming, fits at home, fits in public, failure to have a normal sleep schedule, choosiness in diaper selection, refusal to buckle into her car seat, refusing to eat with utensils are the normal of my days these days.

I feel like I never get time away and rarely get help from my husband who has been gone every night this week (at least the kind of help I'm looking for). After admitting how bad things were, I got some advice from a friend and Godly woman and it hurt. Do you think I haven't tried that? I've tried everything.

It's just hard. It's not easy to admit when your almost 2 year old gets the best of you most days.

All of a sudden I found myself overcome with frustration and anger. I went for a whole night without saying a word to Mike. I thought ugly thoughts.

That very night, when I felt like I couldn't do another sleepless night or battle-filled day, Maren slept all night. I never realized what a huge difference that makes in her mood - and mine!

Still, I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning. I thought just get the kids off to school, put the little girls in front of Sesame Street and go back to bed. Then I didn't feel like cleaning up, but I did. I ate breakfast. I read some Psalms over my cereal even though I didn't want to.

This is some of what I read:

Psalm 91:1-4

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God , in whom I trust."

Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will ocver you with his feathers,
and under his wigs you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Psalm 92:1-5

It is good to praise the Lord
and make music to your name, O Most High,
to proclaim your love int he morning
and your faithfulness at night
to the music of the ten-stringer lyre
and the melody of the harp.

For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord;
I sing for joy at the works of you hands.
How great are your works, O Lord,
how profound your thoughts!

I didn't feel like taking a walk and battling Maren in the stroller, but I got my shoes on anyway.

I realized that while just keeping on with my daily activities I was receiving God's grace. Did I deserve anything good? No way! My prayers amounted to "Good grief Lord I can't take much more of this!" And out of his mercy, he helped me.

Our walk was good, both girls stayed in the stroller and I jogged. It was the first sunny and warm day of spring. I thought a lot about the words from the Psalms: trusting God, our dwelling place, giving thanks to the Lord. It hit me that I was not putting the Lord first in either battle: the one dealing with Maren OR the one trying to find joy. I was stumbling through in darkness. I can't find joy, peace or hope within myself or from any other source. That only comes from Christ.

We stopped at Mike's office so I could apologize for being a jerk. By the time we got home, I felt relief and peace.

As I headed off on a last minute Girl Scout mission (while my "unsupportive" husband took Maren with him on some errands) , I heard the song "Mighty to Save" on the radio. It's funny because I very rarely listen to Christian radio (Shhh - don't tell my Dad!). It gave me goosebumps. I love that song but I'm not sure I'm living like I believe it.

This has happened to me before when God works mightily in my heart and life and it leaves me shocked and speechless. In all honesty, I'm embarrassed to admit that at times I don't believe God can help me. Or maybe that he wouldn't want to. Those are lies of the deceiver.

"Under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield..."

I know there are hundreds of verses in the Bible that claim these truths: He is there for us, loves and cares deeply for us. Why am I surprised when He does it?

Psalm 107:10-16
Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom,
prisoners suffering in iron chains,
for they had rebelled against the words of God
and despised the counsel of the Most High.
So he subjected them to bitter labor;
they stumbled, and there was no one to help.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
he brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom
and broke away their chains.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for me,
for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.