Monday, July 31, 2006

Checking In From Across Town

So...we're all moved. The apartment is empty except for some cleaning supplies (still finishing up there...the cleaner it is, the more money we get back) and the house is CRAMMED FULL of boxes. I feel a little dismayed/overwhelmed every time I look around. Just got our internet service transferred, so I'm taking a quick break and trying to forget about the mess over my shoulder.

I think for some reason moving brings out the worst in me. Just when I think I have grown a whole lot in a year, it merely takes a move to pull all the "yuck" in my heart up to the surface. It's pretty ugly. I'm not dealing with it so well.

Anyway, blogging will probably continue to be slow for the next couple of weeks as I try to get settled in.

UPDATE: One of my favorite-bloggers-I’ve-never-met, Carolyn McCulley, has a great article about this over at Boundless this week. She does a great job of digging deeper and revealing the truth about times like this: It isn’t that moving made me sinful; it’s that moving applied the pressure that revealed “the sin within.” Check it out.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Painting Drama and God's Gracious Care

I have an unfortunate tendency (let's call it a "sinful nature") to be rude or demanding to customer service people when I am dissatisfied with their product or service. Many times I have hung up after a phone call only to feel guilty for my snotty, arrogant tone of voice with the unlucky person on the other end. When really, the person I am speaking with is usually not personally responsible. And even if they are...does that justify my rudeness?

I don't want to be this way, so I'm trying to work on it. I have learned again and again that 1) all communication goes better when you seek first to understand, then to be understood, and 2) you can be firm about what you expect, but you also need to be considerate toward the human being you're telling all about your problem. These lessons have been reinforced through my recent experiences with Lowe’s (I really, really wish they had a credit card with reward points...we would be earning lots of free stuff). Anyway...

I knew before I decided on any other colors that I really, really wanted a deep red dining room. What I didn't realize was that my red dining room would be the source of the drama. Apparently red is the absolute worst color to paint with, which no one at Lowe's mentioned until after the drama was well underway (not that I would have changed my mind...but it would have been good to know).

Painting the dining room went something like this: Buy gray primer, because the brochure at Lowe's shows how gray primer will give you a truer, more vivid red than white primer or even primer tinted red. Not sure why, but okay. Apply first coat of primer. Does not cover paint underneath. Apply second coat of primer. End up with black dining room.

Apply first coat of red paint. Consistency is like primer, so thin it will never, ever cover this dining room, thinner than all other paint used so far. Take back to Lowe's. [Pray for grace to be polite and not demanding.] When they see the thin paint, they give a new can free AND your money back (yay for Lowe's customer service). Have your wonderful parents stay later than planned to help you apply coat #2. Open can #2. Notice that it is better, but still extremely thin. Go back to Lowe's. Have them color match into a different brand of paint because clearly this paint is not cutting it. Apply coat #2 with can #3. Much better, but notice that it still does not cover because your recommended gray black primer is so dark.

Return to Lowe's and buy can #4 because you do not have enough paint for another coat. Calmly and with a smile explain all the drama to the person helping you this time, who by the grace of God happens to be a manager, who can give you the newest can for only $5 even though you didn't ask him to, because "we're sorry to hear you've had so many problems and here at Lowe's we like to have happy customers." Walk out smiling at God's provision and thankful for great customer service (but still slightly frustrated at having to put yet another coat on the walls).

Explain the drama to your husband, who HATES painting and who expected that all the painting would be done when your parents left. Your wonderful husband will then offer to help you apply the final (you're praying that coat #5 will, in fact, be the final coat) coat that very night. He will do so without complaint and finally, after much ado, you will end up with a cranberry-colored dining room. (You will have black primer all over the white trim because it leaked under the stupid blue masking tape...but thankfully there’s leftover living room paint from the previous owner, nestled in the basement among the black widows.)

Seriously, though, through of all the drama, I am so thankful for God's gracious care. It may seem silly here, but I can't even count how many times from the very beginning of the house-buying process we have seen Him provide for us--in huge ways (like finding a house we love quickly, or being able to buy a house in the first place, or generous parents) and in small, seemingly insignificant ways (like a gift card rebate and free delivery on a new refrigerator, or a five-dollar can of paint). I'm just reminded that He numbers the hairs on our head and He cares for us in all of life's details! We're praying that by His grace, this new house would not be just a bunch of furniture and painted walls, but a place where He is exalted and glorified, a place where others experience His grace.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Big Move Approaches

Blogging is slow because home improvement/moving continues. Steve and I are singlehandedly keeping Lowe's in business. We've been working on projects and taking a carload of boxes every time we go over to the house, and my wonderful in-laws are coming down this weekend to help move the big stuff. I am quickly learning that home ownership is hard work, and also it's expensive, especially when you buy a house that is 70 years old. Also that people who do not know what they are doing should NOT be allowed to remodel or even decorate their house, because their ineptitude will only make more work for people who come along later and want to do things right.

I say that legitimately because while my projects have mostly been cleaning and painting, nearly all of Steve's projects have involved fixing someone else's mistakes/stupidity: tearing trim off windows and stripping paint & varnish (because someone painted all the windows in the house shut)...sealing off the old coal chute (because someone just dumped a bunch of bricks in the hole...hello, let's just put out a big welcome mat for the black widows [which we think we found downstairs], brown recluses [which we think we caught in a glue trap], and you-know-whats-that-freak-me-out)...putting bottom shelves in the cabinets (before, the "bottom shelf" was the thanks)...moving the washer/dryer hookups (because currently, the washer and dryer are on opposite sides of the basement--brilliant, huh?) get the idea.

The upside is, of course, that I am sooooo thankful Steve knows how to do all this handyman stuff. What a tremendous blessing! Plus, it's been so wonderful to be able to do all this work before we move. Having this month of transition to live at the apartment and work at the house has been ideal.

Anyway, the majority of the house is now clean and the first floor is full of color. It doesn't look like a page out of House Beautiful by any means, but it feels like OURS and not someone else's place. Although typically, I am second-guessing all my decorating decisions. Touch-up still needs to be done--the whole painting process was not without drama. That story will have to wait for another post.

For now, it's back to work. I haven't even started packing up my kitchen.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Deceit and Promises

"Faith stands or falls on the truth that the future with God is more satisfying than the one promised by sin. Where this truth is embraced and God is cherished above all, the power of sin is broken. The power of sin is the power of deceit. ...[In] Satan's first great success on the earth...the deception was just this: God cannot be trusted to meet your needs and satisfy you.

"...John Sailhamer sums up the scene like this:
The snake speaks only twice, but that is enough to offset the balance of trust and obedience between the man and the woman and their Creator. The centerpiece of the story is the question of the knowledge of the 'good.' The snake implied by his questions that God was keeping this knowledge from the man and the woman (3:5), while the sense of the narratives in the first two chapters has been that God was keeping this knowledge for the man and the woman (e.g. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31; 2:18). In other words, the snake's statements were a direct challenge to the central theme of the narrative of chapters 1 and 2; God will provide the 'good' for human beings if they will only trust him and obey him.
"Satan began by calling God's goodness into question and that has been his primary strategy ever since. His aim is to subvert trust by influencing us to believe that the promise of sin is more satisfying than the promise of God."

--John Piper, Future Grace (Multnomah, 1995), p. 326-27. Includes quote from John Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative (Zondervan, 1992), p. 103-4.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Strawberry Lemonade and Pepsi Vanilla

I was fifteen when Snapple discontinued my very favorite drink in the world.

Snapple made this excellent strawberry lemonade that was unbeatable. Julie and I were addicted--we even walked up to the local gas station right before the curtain of the musical to buy some. The summer after my freshman year, we regularly rollerbladed to the gas station to get our fix (that was before I learned the hard way that rollerblading with a glass bottle in your hand is generally not a good idea...ask me about it later). And then Snapple went and discontinued that wondrous drink.

I called Snapple to complain and beg them to bring it back, and got my very first taste of effective customer service. They promised to send me coupons for free Snapple so I could "find a new favorite." Not as good as bringing back the strawberry lemonade, but still nice. (For the record, no Snapple drink measures up. And Fruitopia had an inferior but acceptable berry lemonade substitute, which we drank for a few months until they went and discontinued that on us as well.)

The Snapple coupons gave me a penchant for what my college roommate Stephanie calls "my famous customer service campaigns." Except they aren't very famous, really. Nike never responded to my indignant letter about my brand-new-but-falling-apart volleyball shoes. And Jockey never responded to my complaint about how underwear with the same label in the same package were totally different sizes. (Yes, I really did write a letter to Jockey about my underwear.) But that didn't stop me from trying. I'm sure there have been more examples but I can't think of any at the moment.

Anyway, I digress. The favorite-drink-discontinued seems to be a theme in my life. Steve and I have been loyal Pepsi Vanilla drinkers for a long time. We're hooked. We wait until Kroger is having a great sale and then stock up. So you can imagine my dismay when I went to Kroger a few weeks ago (you can't beat a 5-for-$10 sale on 12-packs) and found no Pepsi Vanilla on the shelves. Prepared to go get a raincheck, I promptly ran into the Pepsi man, who informed me that Pepsi Vanilla had been discontinued because it didn't sell. But they were still selling Diet Pepsi Vanilla. (Ew.)

I actually called Steve from the store, I was so disappointed. If I had known, we could have at least stocked up! We have two 12-packs left, I think, and we are making them last as long as possible. Anytime he goes to open one, I give him that, "Are you SURE you REALLY NEED to have a Pepsi Vanilla right now? Shouldn't you save it for a special occasion?" look. No more will we be using them in our pot roast (which is really yummy by the way...but regular Pepsi will have to do). We have pondered adding vanilla extract to plain Pepsi, but have not yet tried it to see if it will really work. I have my doubts.

I called Pepsi, but did not have the same results as with Snapple. I'm a little confused about what's really going on, but the lady on the phone gave me the impression that it has not been discontinued everywhere, but that certain bottlers aren't selling it anymore because they need the shelf space. Alas. At least she recorded my comment that we want it back here in middle Tennessee.

So if they still sell Pepsi Vanilla in your area, and you feel so inclined to mail some to Steve and me (or come visit and bring it with you), we will love you forever.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Painting Fools

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Home ownership and all that. We've been busy, particularly this week--the agenda for Monday and Tuesday included priming and painting two bedrooms, the dining room, kitchen and hallway. Yes, I'm crazy.

Now comes the part where I tell you how absolutely awesome my parents are. They made the seven-hour trip down here to bring us a load of stuff that had been in storage and to work on the house. They worked HARD all day long for two solid days (and nights). Dad and I were painting fools while Mom cleaned like crazy and helped prep for painting (and kept the CDs changed). Amazing. I was so blown away by their generosity and their service. If I had had to do all that work myself it would have taken weeks. Instead we were able to get it all done before we move in which is a thousand times better.

I am so, so, so blessed to have the wonderful parents that I have!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Happy Ninth Birthday to Me

I wasn't born in 1997, of course. And my birthday is actually in March. But every July 9 I get to celebrate another special day: my spiritual birthday. It was nine years ago this week that God called me to Himself and changed my heart.

I grew up in church, and I knew all the right answers. Involved in Sunday school and youth group, never in trouble, all that. But it wasn't real to me. I did church on Sundays and lived my life the rest of the time, and thought I had life all figured out. Certainly I was much more of a "good person" than other kids I knew who only attended church sporadically at best.

But in July 1997, I went to Lakeside. It was our church's district youth camp, in this quaint little gated community on Lake Erie. My best friend, Julie, was signed up to go with me, and though she almost backed out at the last minute, God had something else in mind.

From the first night of camp, I was confronted with the shallowness of my "faith" vs. the sincerity and depth of commitment of others I saw. Among the counselors were a music ministry team of students from Indiana Wesleyan University, HIS Instrument*. I saw something different in them--something real. I thought I had the church thing all figured out, but these kids had something I didn't have.

It was nine years ago today that I walked silently down to the lake, having been asked to contemplate where I stood with God and what might be standing between me and Him. I sat on the boulders that line the shore and watched the waves splash up against the rocks as I recalled the lyrics from the song HIS Instrument had just sung:

Lead me, Lord
I will follow
Lead me, Lord
I will go
You have called me
I will answer
Lead me, Lord
I will go

The tears rolled down my cheeks as I realized that I wasn't following God at all--but that I wanted to be, for real. I asked Him to be my Lord, to take all of me and not just a couple of hours of my time every week. And amazingly, on a rock down the shore one direction or the other, my best friend was doing the same thing.

Julie and I came home at the end of that week immature and arrogant. But we came home the beloved children of our merciful Father in heaven, who showed us infinite patience as we slowly grew. I can't tell this story without talking about Julie, without marveling at God's goodness in orchestrating our friendship. We had become close the school year before, but finding Christ at the same time cemented our friendship. If it hadn't been for her, I honestly don't know where I'd be today. When we left the safe cocoon of church camp, we were able to encourage each other, to discover the Word together, to provide support and accountability.

That was the watershed moment in my life, but I didn't suddenly have it all figured out. Though my faith was very real, I was very much a baby Christian. When I look back over the rest of my high school years, I laugh at some of the mistakes I made and cringe at others. I'd change a lot about how I represented Christ back then. But thankfully, I follow a patient and merciful God.

Nine years later, I'm celebrating His faithfulness. I'm thanking Him once again for Julie, who's still my best friend. More than that, I'm thanking Him for knowing me and loving me before the foundations of the world, for calling me to Himself and giving me the grace to come to Him. I'm praising Him for the cross, for providing a way for me to be free from sin and reconciled to Him forever. And I'm thanking Him for His promise to finish the good work He began in me.

*Cami Seawell, Beau & Nicole Hummel, Jim Gulish, Nick Hect and others may never know the impact they had on my life. (That fact has taught me that even when we feel like we aren't making a difference, or don't see results from what we do, we may be influencing people in ways we don't realize!)

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Precious Blood

Great devotional thought--plus a FREE song download--from Bob Kauflin here. A taste:
Our culture can tend to talk about the cross in a way that magnifies our worth to God rather than our sin against Him. I’ve seen or heard worship songs whose main point seems to be that God sent Jesus to die for us because He couldn’t bear to live without us. While God’s children are precious in his sight, our value should never be the end of our worship nor the source of our joy.
Read the rest and get the song!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

One Year

One year ago today.

It had been 364 days since he proposed to me in Rocky Mountain National Park. Twenty-eight months we'd been together. Sixteen years we'd known each other. One year ago today we stood hand in hand and promised that from now on, we'd no longer be two, but one.

A year ago today I married a beautiful man. I don't just mean externally beautiful (but he IS extremely hot!)--I mean he has a beautiful heart. Steve is both strong and gentle, wise and teachable. He is quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. He doesn't take the easy shortcuts, but instead works hard to do things right the first time--even if it takes three times as long. He is creative, inventive, talented and resourceful. He is brilliant and generous. He doesn't complain; he isn't critical. He is thoughtful and playful and affectionate. He protects and cares for me and makes me feel safe. He is my best friend.

We are so much alike in some ways--like sense of humor (I don't have to pretend to laugh at his jokes; I truly think he's hilarious) and taste in furniture style (very helpful as we furnish our new house). In other ways, God has designed us to complement each other perfectly. He fills in where I'm weak, and I'm so thankful.

A year ago today, I made some pretty lofty promises to this wonderful man. I promised to submit to him--but sometimes I'd rather do things my way. I promised to respect him--but I can remember times I've shown him anything but respect. I promised to serve him--but I'd prefer to have him serve me. I promised to cherish him--but occasionally I've taken him for granted. I promised to be part of a home welded together by prayer--but I've neglected my privilege of lifting him up before the throne of God.

Thankfully, a year ago today I married a patient and forgiving man--one God is using to sand down my rough edges and make me more like His Son. It's a painful process at times; coming face to face with the ugliness in my heart is never fun. But it's a process I wouldn't trade for anything. How blessed I am that God has chosen such a rich and loving way of growing me and teaching me about Himself. And I pray that He will continue to give me the grace to love His other son in a way that brings a smile to His face. One thing I know for sure: As Bill Westafer said when he officiated our wedding, it is only through Christ that marriage becomes what God intends it to be.

Happy anniversary, Steve. I look forward to many more years of loving you.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Fun in the Sun

A little behind on this post...but on a totally unrelated note, thought I'd post a picture or two from our vacation. Steve and I had the blessing of joining my parents and brother, my brother's girlfriend, and some family friends for a few days at a favorite vacation spot: a beach house on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. My extended family has rented this house a few times and we always love going back.

The weather was gorgeous all week and our biggest decision was where to eat out every night. We enjoyed lying by the pool, boogie boarding in the waves, playing cornhole, riding an ancient tandem bike, and going out for ice cream more times than I will admit to you. We also witnessed what a roll of Mentos and a two-liter of Diet Coke will produce (see photo at left). Pasty me soaked up as much sun as possible...I am now decently tan for me (which means, pasty for most people). I also have more freckles than I can ever remember having!

Here's a photo of Steve and me with Josh and Jess right before we left. Josh is interning with the Hilton Head fire department this summer, so he's staying at the beach for several more weeks. Rough life.