Category Archives: Challenges and Series

My Love Story, Part 6: The Engagement

Standard

Part 1: The Hang-Ups

Part 2: Falling in Love with a Savior

Part 3: Love at Second Sight

Part 4: A Spiritual Leader

Part 5: Long Distance

 

I’ve been putting off writing this particular post because I felt that I “wasn’t far enough along in the engagement” to adequately describe it, to sum it up.

And, well, plans changed, and all of a sudden, my engagement is nearly over. But certainly not over in a bad way.

I wish I could live in that moment, where he got up from the other side of the table and came over to my seat to get down on one knee. It was thrilling. Not even the knowledge of its coming when he picked me up in a new dress shirt and sport coat brought that moment down.

People always ask me: “Why are you getting married? How do you know that he’s ‘the one’?”

Married people always tell you, “When you know, you know.” I always thought they were kinda crazy…especially when I thought I knew with the last guy I had. But when that phrase “I want to marry you” is followed by its proof–a period of drastic growth in both individuals and in the relationship–that’s when you really know. And I could sit around for years telling you what I now know to be important before choosing a husband, but I’ll save that for another time.

It was around the six month mark that it actually came out of our mouths. Now, that was about a year ago. And of course, looking at that point in our relationship from the perspective I have now, it’s crazy to think that I could have believed that I was ready to be married. But that’s a good thing. If I could say that we were the same people as we were a year ago, and that we had the same relationship, there would be a problem.

The most honorable thing I can say about our engagement is this: it has been a period of more growth than I could have imagined was possible in such a short amount of time.

It’s awesome to watch Matt step into the “husband” shoes…to take responsibility for me in a healthy way and to learn to love me in the way God desires for us. And likewise, I am slowly learning to respect him and his decisions, and to not try to take control of everything, the way I always do.

But still, one of the greatest things I have battled throughout our engagement is fear.

Not fear of him or myself. Not fear of our failure or fear that it won’t work out or fear that I am marrying the wrong person or at the wrong time. Fear of what others might think of me.

It often seems to me that a canyon lies between what I expect others to think of me, and what others do indeed think of me. But other times, the two are identical. The bad thing is, I always expect the worse: people will lose faith in me, they will think me foolish, they will misunderstand, they will be angry, they will look down upon me,…

It’s such a shame that marriage at a young age is so looked down upon. One author on Boundless said this:

Some people should marry when young; others should marry when older; still others, who have the gift of celibacy, should not marry at all. What I criticized was the trend toward later and later marriages. The problem isn’t that people are marrying late — the problem is that too many people are marrying later than they should. Those who should marry when young are marrying when old, and those who should marry when old are marrying older still. Some who should marry never do at all.

Of course, it comforted me that someone backed me up on my opinion. But what I really needed was for someone to put words to what exactly I was experiencing. And to know that I’m okay.

Another thing my mom told me, before we got engaged, was this: “College doesn’t have to have a white picket fence around it.”

That image of the “strong, independent woman” that gets a degree, establishes a career, and then starts considering marriage–which my dad had painted in my head–was not to be mine. In fact, that sounded pretty boring to me.

In the end…God’s plans are bigger and more exciting than a four year curriculum. And He doesn’t expect me or want me to neglect all other parts of my life while I’m in the land of Academia. I’m so grateful for that. Who knows! He might even whisk us away to some new adventure that totally exceeds our expectations for the future. Knowing Him, that’s probably what He’ll do.

And now…we have come to the end of the Love Story series. I’m kind of sad to see it go, since it has been the biggest part of my blog for the few months of its existence. From here on out, my blog will probably be peppered with various lessons God teaches me through our marriage. For Matthew will no longer be just a person in my life…but my own flesh:

And Jesus answered and said to them, “[…] From the beginning of creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (Mark 10:5-8, NKJV)

August 10th, here we come!

Nehemiah Bible Study: Kick-Off

Standard

Hey there!

I’m doing an online Bible study through Eisy Morgan, a blog that I found through my mom. She and I are meeting over Skype to discuss as we go. More info on the study here. For now, I’m going to get started answering this week’s questions for small group discussion!

If you’re not doing the Bible study, don’t be scared off! With each of these questions, I’m sharing some stories and thoughts that transcend the study itself.

This first set of questions is based upon Psalm 119:129-135 (NKJV). Read it in The Message translation here.

1.  List every term the psalmist uses for God’s communication/revelation to man. (Example: V.129 ESV – “testimonies”)


Entrance of God’s words. Commandments. Custom. His word. Precepts. Statutes.

I won’t exhaust you with dictionary definitions; rather, I’d like to highlight one of them. I find it interesting that “look upon me and be merciful to me” is described as a custom. The psalmist recognizes that God is always looking upon him and showing him mercy…yet he asks for it anyways. To acknowledge his desire. His need. It’s quite comforting to just admit to yourself that God regularly looks upon us and shows us mercy–and nothing will keep Him from doing that. And of course…we all have to admit, sometime or another, that we really need His mercy. Constantly.

2.  Psalm 119:129 says, “Your testimonies are wonderful: therefore my soul keeps them.” Each of you (as time allows) share a specific way that you’ve come to know personally that God’s testimonies are “wonderful.” If you don’t have a newcomer to the Bible in your group, imagine that you do. Let your answer help explain to her why YOUR soul desires to keep God’s testimonies and why she should even consider it.

I’ve always told people, especially those atheists who come to me with guns blazing, that a relationship with God is an experience. One that you choose to have. After all, winning an argument never won anyone over for Christ. And so, I’m going to share a short story of a cool God moment I had a couple of years ago.

I’ve always loved the rain; sometimes I would go out and just spin in circles, and skip, and run, and then sit down and let it fall on me when I’m all tired. Childlike? Perhaps. But I think that’s the best way to enjoy God’s creation.

One day, it was raining, and so I went outside. But this time, instead of running around and splashing in puddles, I simply sat, and I started singing. You Won’t Relent by Jesus Culture. The rain swelled and slowed with my volume and energy. And I stopped. The rain stopped. I held my breath…

And then belted it all over again. The rain poured back down. And from that moment forward, the rain served as a reminder that God’s with me. He’s here, and He loves my praise. I’m important enough to stop and start the world for. What. I’m just one tiny person in a whole world of seven billion…but touching my heart uniquely is that important to Him. I mean, I knew I was important enough to die for, but this added a whole new dynamic.

And I have full faith that He feels that way toward every person on earth. You.

And the most exciting part is, we have a whole lifetime to discover His endless love for us.

3.  Psalm 119:132 says “Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is Your way with those who love Your name.” If you have placed your faith in God through Jesus Christ, you have demonstrated one titanic way of “loving His name.” Discuss the importance of trusting that God’s “way” is to deal with His children graciously. Talk about whether you tend to expect God to be gracious to you or indifferent or harsh and condemning. If you tend toward the latter, would you be willing this summer to seek God with the grateful expectation of His graciousness toward you.

As much as I talk about God’s love and mercy and forgiveness…I must admit to you that I mainly talk about them to remind myself of those things. Most of the time, I tend to think that God is sitting up there, watching my every move, waiting to chastise me when I do something wrong. I tend to think that He’s angry and upset with me when I do something wrong, and that I should keep away from Him for an amount of time (almost as if I’m waiting on him to “cool off”) before I’m worthy of going back to Him.

But God says I am worthy. Worthy of His love. Always. Why else would He give up His life to be with us?

4.  Psalm 119:133a says, “Keep steady my steps according to Your promise.” What specific challenges are before you this summer that could cause you to really need God to “steady your steps”?

I’m working as a summer camp counselor at a local church this summer. These kids are the ones who come to the summer camp for 10 hours a day, and many come from broken homes that have no choice but to send their kids to a camp while they work to provide for their family. Some of them don’t come from Christian homes, and I (along with the other counselors and the camp itself) might be the only taste of Jesus they might have. Needless to say, I feel a great load of responsibility for keeping my eyes on Jesus. He’s already given me a love for them that in turn causes me to pursue Him more so that I may lead them better. And I’ve seen Him work in me and in many of the kids there already. But I really need Him in that area–I need steady steps so that I can teach those kids how to walk.

5.  Psalm 119:133b says, “Let no iniquity get dominion over me.” THAT, Beloved, is a prayer that could have huge impact in our lives. If you are willing, share a particular tendency of your flesh that you’re really praying will not get the best of you this summer. (By all means, get personal as the Spirit leads but stop short of really graphic specifics. Give people the idea without the mental images.)

A tendency of my flesh is to let people walk all over me. Take advantage of me. Manipulate me. At first, it didn’t really seem to me that it was really “wrong” to let that happen–after all, my motives were based in “loving and serving others with self-sacrifice”–but there is an unhealthy degree to it. I’m constantly praying for healing and guidance through this particular issue, and I have a feeling that many a blog post will spur from it.

6.  Psalm 119:134 says, “Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep Your precepts.” Look up several definitions of “oppression” and discuss the vital differences between oppression and authority. How can they be confused? Once we know for certain we’re not just resisting authority but we are genuinely experiencing oppression, realize that God’s will is to REDEEM us from it. Pray fervently for Him to do so. He is perfectly capable of redeeming us from oppression while redeeming the relationship.

I know that God has placed certain people in authority over me–they have the right to make decisions and ask me to do certain things. However, the main difference that I found between authority and oppression is that authority is used to make a decision so that any issue or dispute may be settled. On the other hand, oppression creates issues and disputes. It harms and is not of good will.

Anyone can oppress us…friends, parents, significant others…not just people placed in authority over us. That’s a tricky thing I’m learning about through my answer in number 6.

7.  According to Psalm 119:135, conclude by asking God with a full heart of faith to make His face shine upon you, His servant, this summer and to TEACH you vividly through the Book of Nehemiah.

You know, my pastor at Calvary Chapel Tallahassee, at the end of each service, says, “May His face shine upon you.” What a beautiful thing that is.

And so finally, we are finished! I’m excited to discuss with my small group!

My Love Story, Part 5: Long Distance

Standard

Part 1: The Hang-Ups

Part 2: Falling in Love with a Savior

Part 3: Love at Second Sight

Part 4: A Spiritual Leader

We spent the summer together, all day, every day. It was wonderful, and we became accustomed to one another. It was nearly impossible to let go, that night before I left for college. To be completely honest, I’ve repressed the memory (unintentionally) and it no longer exists.

There is a lot of bitterness stored up in this part of my life…and a lot of strong–hardly harnessed, truly–emotions that had no outlet then. This is essentially their first outlet. It’s something I didn’t share then, and I wouldn’t have thought to share now (until this series came along). The following information is an incohesive cloud of emotions that overlap and work together to create a toxic mess.

Read the rest of this entry

I’ve been published by the Good Women Project!

Standard

This is one of the happiest days of my life. I’ve been following the Good Women Project for a year or so now…I’ve read every single post they’ve published since I found them. It’s a blog/website dedicated to helping women live the life they were created to live. It’s a place for community and advice and stories and healing.

I decided I’d go out on a limb and write an article for this month, especially because I’m doing the Great Writers Challenge from Jeff Goins (also, GWP’s theme for this month is “The Working Woman”, and I don’t foresee myself writing for the next two months, “Ask A Married Woman” and “Let’s Talk About Sex Again”…not exactly things I have experience with). The main themes of the challenge are to  put yourself out there, do something brave, and build a platform. This is my first effort to do all of those things.

I wrote about my journey as a self-proclaimed workaholic. Here is a short excerpt:

I work hard. I always have.

And so, it was fitting that I chose quite possibly the world’s most daunting major: Music Education. In four years time, I have to rack up 135 credit hours of 0 and 1 credit courses. Those, along with homework, hours of practice, concert band, marching band, pep band, trombone choir, and attending concerts and recitals made every day into a 14-hour day. But I liked it, because I liked being busy. I thought I was “seizing the day”, not missing any opportunity, because I had no leftover time. I was doing as much as I could with the time I had. That’s what I thought was important.

People sometimes asked me what my hobbies were, or what I liked doing. “Well…I like playing trombone. I like school,” is what I found myself saying. Yeah…probably the lamest answer ever. I didn’t have any hobbies. I was consumed by work.

Click here to keep reading.

This is the first time I’ve ever tried writing for someone/something/somewhere else, and I’m thrilled that I actually got published on my first try. I really can’t believe it. I’m so humbled and I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for me with this passion for writing.

Day 6: Steal; Savor the Journey

Standard

This is Day 6 of the Great Writers series from Goins, Writer.

I haven’t really been blogging through it because I’ve kinda been lacking inspiration (as silly as that may seem…seeing as I am given a prompt every day to work on). Most of them have seemed to me to be “thinking” prompts, and they all seem to be centered around starting a project. I haven’t been at this whole writing thing for long, so I don’t have any dreams yet to put into action.

But anyways, I am totally up for today’s challenge: take inspiration from somewhere else, and incorporate it into my writing.

One thing that really inspires me is my mom’s art. She is so talented and it’s been a beautiful journey to watch her art change and develop as she pursues it more. When I see a new painting of hers, I feel like I am looking directly at her heart.

“Savor the Journey” by Heather Santos at Sparrow’s Journey

I want you to take a long, hard (or soft) look at that piece before reading on. Notice the details. Notice your emotions. Think about what it means to the artist…to you.

Read the rest of this entry

My Love Story, Part 4: A Spiritual Leader

Standard

Part 1: The Hang-Ups

Part 2: Falling in Love with a Savior

Part 3: Love at Second Sight

I was elated by Matt’s decision to get baptized. The testimony he gave at the baptism was quite touching. All I could do was be incredibly happy for him and encourage him despite his fears.

But I still couldn’t help but believe the wise advice that everyone had always given me. “He still can’t be your spiritual leader.” And I talked to God about it. Talked at Him. Let’s be honest: when He brought it up, I always cut Him off before He could say anything—“I know, I know, I’m wrong. He can’t be my spiritual leader. I’m taking care of it. Don’t worry about me.” How silly of me–to tell Him not to worry about me. HELLO. God of the universe up there. He loves me where I am! (These are things I wish I could tell myself back then.)

Well, I was really just avoiding the feelings of failure that I thought God would speak down towards me. How foolish! What He was really trying to say was, “I see you. I know your heart, and I love it. I love you. I want to give you everything—you don’t have to do anything else (and I could imagine Him shaking me at this point), just accept what I want to give you!” Now, what he could have meant by “I know your heart” could be any number of things; I think it is a mixture of “I know you love me and want to please me” and “I know you’re stubborn, so I just made your non-Christian into a Christian for you. And what’s more, he’s gonna be your spiritual leader.”

Read the rest of this entry

Courage

Standard

I’ve always found it hard to reconcile God and country in my mind.

I’d always thought that it was hazy, at best, what a country like ours–with all its “freedom” and “the Constitution is always right” philosophies–should do about a thing like God.

Ah, well, let me catch myself here–I suppose that when I think about “country”, I think about “law”, and all of the controversies surrounding church and state. One time, I posted a rather vague blog on another domain about my reflections on abortion, and I got like, 4 messages from some liberal (not that ALL liberals are like this) who just wanted to tear me apart for all of the reasons I always hear thrown against Christians: “What about the people who are raped”, “This isn’t a theocracy”, etc. etc.

It made me so angry. It always does. I hate it when people get all angry at me–and believe me, I’m a fighter. It took me a lot of reading those messages, and then walking away, in order to finally come back to them without anger and look at them levelly. Even then, I never responded because I knew this person was only looking for a fight. And what I thought was most ironic was that their username was something like, “LivingQuietlyAndPeacefully”.

There was another message that I got, from someone else, assaulting me with a profanity and telling me that they hope I burn in hell. Or something to that effect.

Ah, my point is, I didn’t even attack anyone–I just calmly listed some things with little to no explanation. And I suppose I should explain my opinions better in the future so that they aren’t so blown out of proportion…but a cynical part of me believes that they always will be.

So…things like this, and all the liberal arguments I hear on Facebook and on a college campus, only perpetuate the confusion inside of my heart (and I remember who is the author of confusion). This post is my attempt at dissolving the matter (though it will probably something I come back to over and over again, only to be healed further in Christ each time).

There are things in life worth standing up for, no matter how hard it is. And if people are going to attack you no matter how you say it, you may as well take a stand. Sure, who am I to say that I, or that Christians, know better than everyone, but I know a God bigger, and stronger, and smarter, and wiser than ALL of you. And everyone in the world. Yeah, he’s pretty awesome.

So I believe Him when he says in Jeremiah 9 that ruin only comes to the nations who perpetuate lies so badly that you can’t trust anyone you meet (when was the last time you left your car unlocked in a parking lot? When was the last time you left your house unlocked? It wasn’t always like that). I believe  him when he says destruction comes to the nation who runs from sin to sin and wears themselves out from all of their sinning (how many people do you see who come to work or school miserably hung over from the night before? How often do you feel burned out or unfulfilled from chasing the things of this world?).

Now, I’m certainly not trying to declare the whole “doom and gloom” message. No one wants to hear that–I certainly didn’t. It was actually really tough for me to accept and understand last night, as I was sitting in my comfy chair, listening to my pastor. The thoughts trying to enter my mind were, “That’s outdated. That was meant for Judah thousands of years ago.” “That doom-and-gloom message isn’t real. Maybe he’s gone off his rocker.” “This kind of stuff isn’t important, in light of everything else that’s going on in the world.”

For I am guilty as charged. I’m not the perfect person who is sitting back and saying that everyone else is terrible or wrong. I do those things, too. My heart is just as deceitful and evil as the rest of them. A part of me wants to believe that those things are normal, because it’s all I’ve ever known and I don’t want to take the time or energy to change them.

But I do know God. I do want to do and be those things He made me, and all of humanity, for. And He redeems me. He’s taken everything that I’ve done that hurts other people and myself and Him, and He’s cast it away from me. “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12, NLT). And that’s what He promises us, when we choose Him. This…is faith. That He knows what He’s talking about, and He never changes.

Jeremiah was known as the Weeping Prophet. He had so much compassion inside of his heart that the knowledge of his people’s path of destruction just tore him apart inside. It overwhelmed him.

And at the end, my pastor asked, will there be anyone in this country who weeps from their compassion for the people in this country?

I suppose, at the end of the day, after all of the arguments have been talked to death and all of our anger has been spent, that’s what it comes down to. Compassion. Will I have the compassion to speak the truth in love? Will I have the compassion to tell everyone I know about the amazing grace that I experience daily? Will I have the compassion to weep and pray for those who are making decisions for my nation?

Because at the end of the day, God is God. He’s still faithful. He still forgives. And He loves so, so much. He doesn’t want our weaknesses to destroy us. He wants to heal them.

But He is also good, and mighty, and powerful. He is so purely good that by His very nature, He cannot tolerate evil for long.

His character never, ever changes.

And sometimes, it just takes the courage of one person to say that.

..

If you have any response, or questions, or even anger to hurl at me, please leave it in the comments section below. I’ll respond with no anger or malice. I want to hear what you (YES, YOU) have to say!