Preparing for Holy Week

Lent began with Ash Wednesday on February 18th.  Another local church marks this season with soup dinners and Lenten services.  I’ve been attending (Ryan works that night of the week) and I have enjoyed the community as well as learning about the Lord’s Prayer. At home for Lent Ryan and I have been reading daily and remembering the season, focusing on Christ and the cross.  My favorite reading so far, that I think encompasses the spirit of Lent, is called The Mourning.  It is part of a Lenten series that can be found on Redeemer New York‘s website. We began this season with seven lit candles which you can see here in my February 19th post: Lent and Remembering.

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But now there are only two candles lit in anticipation of Holy Week.  Each Sunday we blow out another candle and read from this devotional called Lenten Lights from Desiring God Ministries.  Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, the Sunday where we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  At that point we will have only one candle still lit.

At some point this week, I will make hot cross buns.  I’m not really sure when, where and why hot cross buns started being made for the Easter season but I do know that they are delicious and another sweet reminder of the cross.

Ryan and I are excited to celebrate another sweet remembrance of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday.  We will be driving up to Santa Barbara to connect with our church community there as we share a Christian Seder meal.  The Seder is the meal that is traditionally eaten at Jewish passover.

And on Friday, the 3rd of March we will attend services for Good Friday.  Good Friday is the day we remember Christ’s death on the cross.  This solemn occasion isn’t fun but it is a pivotal part of the Christian faith. Without Christ’s death, his resurrection is meaningless.  On Good Friday we will also blow out the final candle symbolizing our final descent into the darkness of sin and death.

But darkness doesn’t win.  Hope remains because we know how the story ends.  Christ defeats death and comes back to life. (Luke 24:6-7)  On resurrection Sunday Ryan and I, along with Christians across the globe, will celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  At home we will light all the candles again as a symbol of light reigning over darkness.  We serve the creator God, the one who endured death on a cross for our sins but was not defeated, instead he won the battle and rose again.  Easter is the celebration marking the fact that Christians serve a living God.  He is Risen indeed.

Wife After God- A Devotional Review

WifeAfterGodBlessings and change often start small.  It’s little motivations, little habits, little adjustments that can slowly start to make a big difference.  I’m not good at reading daily devotionals by myself.  For whatever reason, I find it easier to pick up the Bible although unfortunately that doesn’t always happen on a daily basis either.  However, if you are looking for a devotional to kickstart your new year or anytime throughout the year, I would heartily recommend Wife after God by Jennifer Smith.  Whether you’ve been married 30 days, 30 months or 30 years, this devotional could benefit and bless your marriage.

The devotional begins with the foundations of marriage, supporting and building up this sacred institution.  It then takes the reader through the ups and downs, inevitable struggles and sometimes daily challenges of being married.  But it always points to Christ and encourages intimacy with God while encouraging intimacy with your husband.  Each day includes Bible Reading, a devotional passage, a prayer (this was one of my favorite parts, laying what had just been read at God’s feet), a challenge, a social media status update and journal questions.

Unlike some devotionals that just give you food for thought, Wife after God gives you Biblical teaching and then challenges you to digest it more, wrestling with the content in journal form or just thinking about the questions throughout the day.  The devotional is written in such a way that it encourages you to pray over your marriage and take the challenges to build, strengthen and heal areas of need in your marriage.  All of this and a humble, worshipful approach to God make this devotional a powerful tool for your spiritual walk.  Of course, you also have to put in the time and energy in order to reap the benefits.

This is not a read once devotional.  I truly believe that you could go through this devotional multiple times over many years and hear from God in different ways depending on your circumstances.  The social media status update and journal questions also lend themselves to finding a friend or a small group of women to walk through the devotional together, maybe just encouraging each other through social media or sitting down once a week or more to discuss the questions and hear each others experiences with the challenges the devotional encourages you to complete.

This devotional is available on Amazon and it’s free if you have Kindle Unlimited.  You can also see more from Jennifer Smith on her blog, the Unveiled Wife.  I received this devotional for free in exchange for my review and opinions.  But I’m so glad to now have this devotional as part of my Kindle arsenal, I will definitely be picking it up again down the road.

 

Our Part of the Great Commission

This morning Ryan and I rose early to attend an 8am Missions Breakfast at the church here in Camarillo.  It’s hard to get up early on a Saturday (especially for Ryan since it’s his only day to sleep past 4:10am) but it was worth it.  We enjoyed our time rubbing elbows with other people who have a vision and a heart for the Great Commission.

missions breakfastEd and Kelli Compean, who work in Kenya, and their son spoke to us about their lives, ministry and what sustains them.  Thanks Krista for this great picture!  I appreciated the Compean’s candidness but especially enjoyed Ed’s reminder to us that all Christians are part of the Great Commission (“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20).  

No matter where God has you, whatever stage in life, whatever job or circumstances, we should be faithful to our little slice of the Great Commission.  We aren’t called to do it all ourselves.  We are a part of a greater whole.  This is such a sweet reminder to me in this time of transition and waiting.

I’m thankful for a church that takes the gospel seriously and for the reminder at this breakfast of all the work that is being done here in the area, in other parts of California and to far away places like Kenya.

 

Thoughts on Turning 30

Birthdays are different in this technology filled world.  I woke up to the ping ping of my cell phone and happy birthday texts.  I eventually opened my computer to the beginning of a barrage of Facebook birthday messages.  But my husband was the first to wish me happy birthday this morning at 4am when he got up to start his day.  I’m a lucky wife too because his first present to me was shaving his face!  I love the feeling of a stubble free cheek next to mine.

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Today is my 30th birthday.  And I woke up next to my husband.  As a little girl there was never any doubt that I would get married and have a family.  It’s what I wanted and growing up in a world filled with married couples and families, it’s just what happened.  Then into my 20s I began to doubt the timing.  I still wished for marriage, I still hoped to have a family but maybe that’s not what God had for me.  Maybe I would be single at 30 (which would not have been the end of the world but in my mind it was scary).  However, last year I celebrated my 29th birthday with friends and a man who had just told me that he loves me.  A lot has happened in a year.

Ryan had told me that he wouldn’t say “I love you” until he was ready to marry me.  So even though he didn’t propose last August those words set the change in motion.  I went from full-time support raising for Australia to figuring out how the transition with the organization and supporters would work.  I went from bouncing back and forth from Sacramento to Santa Barbara to making an effort to stay closer to Ryan.  We started planning the wedding, planning a future together and planning a life that still seems very foreign to me six months (tomorrow) into marriage.

I truly love Ryan.  I love him from deep in my gut and I hope and pray that the love I feel now will continue to grow exponentially.  However, I can honestly say that the transition to life in Camarillo, marriage and everything that comes with it, a new phase in waiting for overseas ministry, inviting someone else into my relationship with God as well as leaving my life as a single has been extraordinarily difficult.  Nothing anyone could have said to me would have prepared me for this.  I knew there were going to be challenges and I knew that everything wouldn’t always be rosy but I had no idea that some days would make me feel like breathing and walking were a chore.  How’s that for a marriage advertisement!?

But despite everything I would choose marriage again, I still choose Ryan every day and I don’t doubt that choice.  I’m learning how to deal with transition in a completely new way.  For the first time since college I am living in the same place for longer than 6 months and there is a strong possibility that we will be here even longer.  I have a new church family that I didn’t choose and a community that has been welcoming but is different than any community I have ever been a part of before.  I’m grieving the loss of my independence, freedom, ministry, singleness and ‘simple’ relationship with God.  And all of this and more is being done while i’m learning to live, love and communicate with another person who has become a part of me.

With each challenge, I am learning things about myself that, for me, would never have been revealed as a single.  A lot of this is ugly but there is also something really beautiful about finally ripping through the old, dead, tangled roots and making room for something new to grow.  The unknown of our current situation is extremely mentally challenging for me.  How long will we be in Camarillo?  No idea.  Are we going to move to Australia?  No idea.  When are we going to start having kids?  No idea.  For the first time in my adult life I am unable to push forward and plan for the distant future.  Instead I am having to learn how to live in the present and focus on making now work.

30 is something to celebrate.  3 decades of life and for me those can be roughly divided into 2 decades with my family, 1 decade on my own and now I am adjusting to as many decades as God would give us with my husband.  30 is a turning point to something new.  The struggles now are stepping stones to whatever comes next.  This is a new decade and a new phase of my life.  I’m excited (in a hesitant but expectant sort of way) to see what adventures this decade has in store and I get to learn about it and live it one day at a time.

Time with God

As a Christian I believe that I have a relationship with God and that through prayer I can communicate with the trinity.  I also have the privilege of hearing from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit: in stillness, through other people and through the pages of the Bible.  I believe that the Bible is the word of God and although it was written in a different time to different and diverse cultures that the truth and the message are still applicable and transformative today.

But like any relationship, this one takes time, effort and commitment.  I have no problem carving out time for friends that I meet with face to face.  And so i’ve had to learn how to schedule devoted time to seek God’s face.  Many Christians set aside morning time for God.  I’ve heard many people say that it helps them to start their day out right and it is them easier not to forget it at some other time.  However, while I was in PNG the morning was usually get up and go.  In town that was market time or we were taking advantage of the clear skies to get laundry done or taking advantage of the daylight to get work and other errands completed.  And in the village, there was the morning radio sched and neighbors visiting and all sorts of other distractions.  Depending on where I was I had to set aside time in another part of my day.  In the village this was often the afternoon right after lunch.  The village was usually quiet and there was time before the afternoon work to just sit on the back porch, read my Bible, pray and listen.  In Ukarumpa I usually set aside time at night right before bed.  It was sweet to contemplate my day, read my Bible and pray before I slept.

IMG_0427So the point here is that I’ve had to adapt and change to my circumstances but I’ve also made it a priority to find what works.  Once back in the US I struggled for many reasons and finally settled on a system that is working for me.  While reading my Bible, I often found it discouraging when I would miss a day or two or 5 and come back just to have forgotten what I was reading.  This made me not want to start again, like when you see your friend who you’ve been meaning to call at the store and part of you wants to hide in another aisle because you’re embarrassed that it hasn’t happened.  To counteract this I began to write down what I was reading, along with one daily prayer and committed to read through the Bible, not in 3 months, not in a year but until I was done.  I’m finally (after 3-ish years) seeing the finish line to this commitment.  After reading through some more proverbs and a few more of the minor prophets, I will have read through the Bible once again.

It takes effort and commitment to grow my relationship with God.  However, it is worth it because I am getting to know the God of the universe.  The words of the Bible are his message to mankind as well as his message to me personally.  What an amazing gift.

 

 

 

Made in God’s Image

IMG_1178“Our task now is to learn that if we can voyage to the ends of the earth and find ourselves in the aborigine who most differs from ourselves, we will have made a fruitful pilgrimage. That is why pilgrimage is necessary in some shape or other. Mere sitting at home and meditating on the divine presence is not enough for our time. We have to come to the end of a long journey and see that the stranger we meet there is no other than ourselves–which is the same as saying that we find Christ in him.”        –Thomas Merton

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Looking Towards Australia

IMG_9252Most of you know that before we got married Ryan and I discussed the possibility of living and working overseas.  We got married and anticipated visiting Australia this summer.  We even used our wedding to help raise some of the financial support we would need to make the trip.  But for various reasons the timing wasn’t right.  We didn’t visit Perth in June but we are still moving in the direction and hope to visit Perth in October.

During this time of waiting our hearts are learning how to connect.  Making life decisions with a partner is so much more complicated than I ever imagined.  At this point I am thankful for the delay because we have been able to have more dedicated conversations and prepare ourselves as a couple.

Last night we had a few hours of conversation, mostly focused on Australia.  Sharing our hopes, hearts and expectations.  It’s great to see progress for both of us.  And we are excited to share our journey with you as we continue towards Oz.

Please be in prayer for the October details.  Please be in prayer that we would hear and be sensitive to the spirits leading.  Please be in prayer that the process would make our marriage stronger.  Please be in prayer that our focus would be ultimately on God, where he wants us and how we can serve Him.