Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 79

Thanking God this week for...
  • a patient husband who's actively involved in parenting
  • Elijah sleeping a much longer stretch last night than he has for a while
  • the new book I got in the mail this week
  • finding a great deal on a fitted sheet to replace the one on our bed (which has a giant, unexplained hole)
  • Elijah's easygoing, contented disposition
  • podcasts
  • strawberry shortcake
  • sending His Son to bear the punishment I deserve
  • uniting me with Christ and counting me righteous because of His perfection
  • forgiving me not seven times, but seventy times seven [billion] times

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Happiness, Eternity, and a Life Well Lived

Last week was a grief-filled one for my hometown. First came the death of a kid who graduated a year or two ago and had been battling leukemia; soon after, a man who worked for the school (and a family friend) died from cancer. He was in his early 30s.

I noticed yesterday that some kids started a group on Facebook in memory of their classmate. Curious, I clicked the link; the group description made my heart hurt:

"From his life, we need to learn to live more freely and do the things that will make us happy now, because we don't know how long we have here with our loved ones."
Oh, that we would learn to number our days aright and gain hearts of true wisdom. Is that really the lesson to learn from the death of a 19-year-old (or a 30-something-year-old)--life is short, so live for the moment and seize any possible temporary happiness? God, forbid it! It's exactly the opposite!

Life IS short. Whether we are 50, 80, or 26, we don't know what day will be our last. Life is a vapor--and so many of the things that make us happy now are so temporary, so fleeting--so empty. They have no eternal meaning. Given two choices, both of which would bring you pleasure and joy, would you take the one that would make you happy for five minutes, or the one that would make you happy for twenty years? How much more significant, then, is the choice between what might make you happy for twenty years and what would fill you with overwhelming joy FOREVER!

It isn't wrong to pursue happiness; in fact it's very GOOD to do so!--provided you know the true Source of all joy and are pursuing what will make you happy not for an hour, or a few years, but for an eternal lifetime. If life on this earth is merely the first, single page of a book that has no end (as I believe with all my heart it is)--what foolishness and stupidity to live for today! What wisdom it would be to say not "I'm going to live for today's pleasures, because they'll be over soon"...but "I'm going to do the things that will make me happy for eternity, because this life will end soon and those pleasures will last forever."

How I pray that these kids would not put all their hope in maximizing their happiness for a few years--that they would not think that a life well lived means a life in which you had as much fun as you could before you died. May God remove the blinders from their eyes and show them (may He show us all!) that there is more to live for than parties and good memories with your friends or family--that the deep, lasting happiness we all seek can only be found in Him.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 78

Thanking God this week for...
  • catchy new (to me) love songs
  • cooler, breezy weather to talk a walk yesterday evening
  • the fact that Steve only has to work late once in a while
  • being heard
  • women from church willing to babysit for Elijah
  • baby gates
  • watermelon
  • Facebook
  • Psalms that express my heart
  • Psalms set to music (especially by Shane & Shane)
  • His sovereignty

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Why We Don't Get Complete Answers

Who among us has not asked "Why, God?" Whether our questions come from profound tragedy or merely grating irritations, we know the Sunday school answers but often reject them as unsatisfying--surely there are other ways for God to make us holy, to bring Himself glory, to lead another to Christ. John Piper writes:

"...we can always object that there are other easier ways for God to accomplish those things. We want to know more specifics: Why now? Why this much? Why this often? Why this way? Why these people? The problem is, we would have to be God to grasp all that God is doing in our problems."

Piper recently posted a meditation on why God doesn't provide answers to our questions. He relates a hypothetical story of a blacksmith who suffers in a seemingly pointless and trivial way, and concludes:

"God cannot make plain all he is doing, because there are millions and millions and millions and millions of effects of every event in your life, the good and the bad. God guides them all. They all have micro purposes and macro purposes. He cannot tell you all of them because your brain can’t hold all of them."

It's like when I ask Steve to explain something he's doing at work. Sometimes I wonder why I even asked, because it's not like I'm going to understand the explanation anyway! My brain just isn't wired to understand the things Steve does at much less so can I wrap my mind around the answers to my questions about our infinite God and His ways.

Perhaps you, like me, will find this reminder of the small size of your brain to be encouraging and helpful as you seek to trust Him.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Writing is not like riding a bicycle.

They say you never forget how to ride a bike.
Whether it’s been a year or twenty, they say
you could pull your old ten-speed
right out of the garage
and tour the neighborhood effortlessly.
Your seat may be sore, of course,
but you’re riding.

Today I sit down to write,
sorely out of practice, but thinking
surely I can manage
a quick spin around the block.
I may be rusty, but after all, I have been using words
all along, even if not so deliberately.
Instead I find myself wobbling
down the driveway,
having completely forgotten how
to pedal through a poem.
I get only as far as the street
before I’m ready to turn around.

Like a nervous child learning
to ride alone, I’m all too aware
of the hard, ungiving ground beneath me.
Too old to put those training wheels back on,
I think I’d rather like to park the bike
and head inside.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Yep, That's the One

A recent conversation that made me laugh, in which Steve swiftly summarizes one of the dumbest books I've ever read:

me: "This book is really interesting. It's written as though The Great Gatsby was nonfiction."
Steve: [blank look] "The Great Gatsby?"
me: "Remember, we read it in high school?"
Steve: "Oh, yeah." [pause] "Isn't that the one with the giant yellow car? ...And everybody was always sweaty."

(I do have to admit, reading The Double Bind sort of made me want to go back and reread Gatsby--maybe I would appreciate it more now than I did when I was 17. But I sure thought it was incredibly stupid back then.)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Three Years

*While I was on hiatus, I received an anonymous comment asking where the annual anniversary post was. I need no further invitation to take an opportunity to gush about my incredible husband :) So here it is, a couple of weeks belated.*

I was, I'm sure, not unique among new brides when I stood at the altar unable to fathom how I could love that man more than I did that day. But here we are three years later--and I do indeed love him more today.

When people talk of childbirth, they often describe falling in love with a new person. That was my experience...though not like you might expect. I fell in love with a new father. I never imagined that having Steve's child would make me love him so much more deeply. Of course I've always had confidence that he would make a great dad (isn't that usually part of what attracts us to the men we love?). But picturing it is one thing; seeing it surpass your expectations is quite another.

I've often felt that parenting has brought out the worst in me. But it has certainly brought out the best in my husband. (And I've only had one baby to take care of--he had two.) From the first moments in the hospital, when he changed every one of the tar-poop diapers and gave his hormonal, hysterical wife a backrub, Steve rose to the occasion of fatherhood. I lost count of the number of times in those early weeks that I was stunned to tears by the way he took care of not only his infant son, but also his fragile wife. Of course, I cried at a lot of things back then...but still. If I could describe that early postpartum period in one word, it would be "overwhelming"--but part of what overwhelmed me was my husband's tenderness and strength and my growing love for him.

This third year of our marriage has been a trying one. Elijah is a precious gift, to be sure, but the adjustment to motherhood has been very rough for me--and, as a result, very rough on Steve. Yet his patient love has not wavered. Over the last twelve months, he has lived out Paul's exhortation to husbands: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." His love has been selfless and sacrificial; he has loved me when I have been completely unlovable. He has shouldered my burdens and steadfastly held on to hope when I have felt hopeless.

And so it is that thanks mostly to him, our relationship is stronger and deeper today than it was on that beautiful July day in 2005. I can only pray that sometime down the road, when he is low and struggling, I will be able to uphold and encourage him as he has done so faithfully for me this year.

Happy anniversary, Steve. Here's to many, many more.

(And...a huge THANK YOU to his parents, who watched Elijah while we went out for dinner, and my parents, who then cared for the little guy so Steve and I could get away overnight by ourselves for the first time! What a wonderful anniversary celebration.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 77

I don't know what it is about Thankful Thursdays, but these simple little posts have probably gotten more response than anything else I've written. So the feature is here to stay. I will admit that I don't always *feel* overwhelmed with gratitude--but I think it's a helpful exercise to reflect on the abundant blessings I have received from God. All good things, whether simple pleasures like chocolate, or life-changing gifts like a baby, or the magnificent grace of salvation, come from His generous hand.

"Thanksgiving is an admission of dependence," says Jerry Bridges in his book Is God Really In Control? "Through it we recognize that...God 'gives [us] life and breath and everything else' (Acts 17:25). Everything we are and have we owe to His bountiful grace. ...'What do you have that you did not receive?' (1 Corinthians 4:7)."

So as an admission of dependence and expression of humility (something I *always* need to work on cultivating), here are a few things I'm thanking God for this week...
  • readers who stuck with me through a long hiatus and expressed gladness that I started blogging again--what an encouragement to me!
  • a patient, gentle, servant-leader husband
  • a generous surprise in the mail
  • my camera
  • rhubarb
  • air conditioning
  • ice cream
  • long naps for Elijah, enabling me to be very productive
  • our Ergo carrier, enabling me to be productive while he's awake
  • the privilege of being part of God's provision to others
  • being under grace instead of law
  • the promise that in the end, mourning will turn to joy
As always, you're welcome to add your own in the comments!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ohio Vacation

Who would ever think that a week in northwest Ohio would be better than a week at the beach? Not me, until our experience this summer. We were home from South Carolina just long enough to unpack, do laundry and repack before heading on the road again--this time for our planned "vacation" home. Steve's parents and my parents live five minutes from each other, in the small town where we both grew up. The added bonus is that his best friend and my best friend both still live in the area, so a trip home means time with both our families and several dear friends.

Ohio may not have the ocean, but it has lots of loved ones, not to mention free babysitters--so that more than made up for the unremarkable views :) Plus, Steve wasn't working, so the week was much more fun and relaxing. And I haven't even mentioned the mild weather that provided a wonderful respite from hot and humid Tennessee! Adventures included:

...helping my mother-in-law throw a shower for my sister-in-law, Michelle, who's due to deliver the first Kannel baby GIRL next month! (unfortunately we didn't get a photo of all three of us) afternoon with Julie and Joel

...and several other wonderful events I don't have pictures for--like a trip to Fort Wayne to visit my college friends Stephanie and Jaala, a visit to Findlay to see my extended family, a Fourth of July cookout with friends and Steve's family (including a super-fun game of volleyball), and an evening of s'mores and fireworks in my parents' backyard. We even enjoyed a little anniversary getaway!

And no, I didn't dress Elijah to match Daddy on purpose! I didn't even buy the shirts on purpose--my mom bought Elijah's outfit and it coincidentally matches a polo shirt Steve already had. Anyway, for those who can't get enough of the pictures, you can view my full albums on Picasa here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Beach Vacation

For several years, my family has vacationed in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, but with vacation days (and money) at a premium, Steve and I hadn't planned to join them this summer. However, a few months ago, Steve registered for some work training in Myrtle Beach (nice, huh?!)--and, in the kindness and providence of God, it just so happened to be the same week as my family's vacation to Hilton Head!

We spent a couple of days in Hilton Head with my family, where Elijah had his first experience in a swimming pool and his first encounter of the Atlantic Ocean. The sunglasses lasted all of ten seconds before he discovered he could pull them off and chew on them. Any attempts to take them from him and put them back on his face resulted in screaming. Don't you love his man capris swimming trunks?

He enjoyed the pool, though he wasn't overly thrilled with the beach.

We then spent the rest of the week in Myrtle Beach. Our hotel was SO nice...but the truth is, vacation with a ten-month-old, especially when your husband is in meetings all day long, isn't really a vacation. I am hopeful that there comes an age when vacations with your kids are at least as much, if not more, fun than vacations with just your husband. Let's just say, ten months old is not that age.

On our way home, we stopped at the Biltmore Estate (and learned that mid-June is the worst time to visit the gardens--the dead roses looked like they might have been beautiful about two weeks earlier). Oh well--the house was still impressive and other parts of the gardens were, too.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


It feels good to come back to blogging. Any longer than a two-month hiatus would, I'm sure, effectively kill the blog--so in an effort to preserve my four remaining readers, I'm resuming regular posting. Thanks for your patience.

The last two months have been both gloriously full and strangely empty, and I have plenty to say about them--if I can find the words. You can expect several upcoming fluff posts, with pictures of our recent beach vacation and our trip home to Ohio...but besides that, I do have some more meaningful things on my mind.

There are, I believe, writers who blog/bloggers who write--but somewhere along the way, I became a blogger who blogged. Nothing wrong with that necessarily, but for me it meant I stopped using the gift I'd been given. For some inexplicable reason(s)--fear? laziness? vague inner turmoil?--I quit writing. Blogging was a substitute rather than an outlet.

It seems I had to stop blogging to write. After two months of hiatus, my desire to write still vastly outpaces my practice of the craft, but I have at least been writing. It's a start. And now I think I'm ready to return to the blog. I'll still be bringing the lighthearted life-update posts and the gratuitous photos of my adorable son, but I've always wanted this blog to be more than that. I want to share with you my heart, in all of its muddy complexity. I hope you'll keep coming by to read--it means the world to me.