Monday, March 31, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 319

Thanking God this week for...

6039. fabulous NYC Instagrams
6040. opening my eyes to understand the gospel's application to life beyond the "moralistic therapeutic deism" that plagues the church
6041. friends who are pregnant
6042. awesome pastors who shepherd us so lovingly
6043. Steve's humility and honesty

6044. a friend babysitting for us at the last minute
6045. Jude's potty independence increasing
6046. the boys' eagerness to hear "Jesus stories"
6047. friends around our dinner table
6048. stories of His faithfulness and grace to a friend and her family over the last year

6049. older friends and their wisdom gained from experience
6050. friends who pray for me and with me
6051. lunch with another friend and her testifying to God's faithful love and guidance
6052. Shane and Shane met their Kickstarter reach goal = Psalms II next year!
6053. free birthday gifts from Sephora, Starbucks, Panera, Dunkin Donuts

6054. girls' night in
6055. a friend's needed challenge to "just do something!"
6056. Elijah announcing to everyone in the aisle at Aldi that he had on Superman underwear
6057. black bean tacos with lime cilantro slaw and feta
6058. how very much my tastes have expanded

6059. new dance moves + lots of laughter + dizziness with Steve
6060. His patience when I am inclined to return to Egypt again and again
6061. healthy boys who love to hike
6062. a parking spot at Radnor Lake after a long wait
6063. sunshine, fresh air, blue skies

6064. strong legs and lungs
6065. boys snuggling with me through an entire movie
6066. perfect love casting out fear

Monday, March 24, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 318

Thanking God this week for...

6017. birthday cards in the mail
6018. chile verde on St. Patrick's Day
6019. grace to apologize to Elijah after yelling
6020. voicemails and texts and other messages from dear friends on my birthday
6021. evidence I have grown--remembering that the world doesn't revolve around me on March 18, and being OK with doing normal stuff :)

6022. snuggles with Jude

6023. Elijah's affectionate compliments and kisses/hugs
6024. Pad Thai at Pei Wei
6025. Vanilla Coke, happy surprise
6026. all vomit contained in appropriate receptacles

6027. hilarious Jude-isms
6028. two healthy, strong boys who can ride bikes
6029. days getting longer
6030. a visit from my in-laws
6031. coconut birthday cake

6032. delicious blackberry and muscadine wines from Belle Meade Plantation
6033. a dear friend's kindness in babysitting while we toured with Steve's parents
6034. lunch at Mafiaoza's
6035. the boys' Sunday school teachers
6036. an increasingly diverse church, reflecting the diverse beauty of the Kingdom

6037. our adoption as His sons and daughters
6038. our inheritance conditioned on Jesus' obedience and worthiness

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Steve and Amy: A Love Story (Part 15)

[continued from part fourteen // start here]

Newly graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University, I left for Denver in June 2004 to spend another summer working for Kingdom Building Ministries. I had loved my internship there the year before, so I was thrilled to return, even if it did mean being halfway across the country from the man I loved.

That July, Steve flew out to visit me and meet some of the people who had become so dear to me. In a phone conversation the week before, he made a request that made my heart race. "On Saturday morning," he said, "let's go someplace quiet, with a view but not tons of people around."

Oh my goodness he's going to propose. 

He then clarified--he simply hoped to do some reading together, as we'd done at a park in Cincinnati the last time we'd been together. Still, I couldn't shake the idea. I'd had a farfetched fantasy about him proposing in the mountains. But I knew it was too early based on the timeline he'd mentioned months before. I didn't want to get my hopes up only to be disappointed, and I didn't want to be anticipating the proposal whenever it happened--I wanted to be surprised! I spent the next few days having the following conversation with myself a dozen times a day:

"Two days from now, I could be engaged. I can't wait to have a ring on this finger. Imagine how exciting it will be to announce to the staff on Tuesday morning!"
"Amy. You are not getting engaged this weekend. STOP." 
"Right. I know. He's not going to propose Saturday. It's too early. It's not going to happen."
"...But wouldn't it be great? Up in the Rockies, so exciting, so romantic..."

ARGH! Even one of my male coworkers mentioned it, asking, "Would he propose in Colorado?" No, I said, it was too early; Steve didn't want to be engaged longer than nine months.

What saved the surprise was a phone conversation with my parents. I had further reason to think Steve might possibly propose during his visit because I knew he had been home the weekend before. I was certain he would talk to my parents first, and I figured he would have had the perfect opportunity to do so without my knowing. But when Steve came up in conversation, my parents didn't even know he'd been in town, and I was positive they couldn't have lied about it so well. So, I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't be getting a ring that weekend.

On Saturday, July 3, Steve and I went up to Rocky Mountain National Park, and we drove Trail Ridge Road, stopping at overlooks here and there. (Sadly, I was not into hiking back then--oh the opportunities I missed!) I was actually sick, so I wasn't enjoying myself much. I think my face in this photo simultaneously says, "I'm so happy my boyfriend is here with me!" and "Ugh, I feel miserable." Please ignore the cheesy matching sweatshirts...I believe that was the only sweatshirt I had with me in Colorado, and UC sweatshirts were the only kind Steve owned :)

We parked way up above treeline (it was so windy and so cold!) and walked down the Ute Trail just a little way to find a good spot to relax and read. As I followed Steve on the narrow trail, I just wanted to cry because I felt awful--throat hurting, nose running, aching all over. Finally we found a huge rock and climbed up. As he sat with his arms around me, trying to warm me up, he handed me his Bible and asked me to find our spot (we'd been reading through Acts together). It immediately fell open to Acts, and there was the ring, tied to the ribbon bookmark. I was stunned, and tears came as Steve told me that he loved me and didn't want to spend his life without me. "Amy, will you marry me?" he asked.

Here's a pic we snapped immediately after--much bigger smile on my face :) I don't know why we didn't get my left hand in the photo! But (I think) you can just barely see the giant rock where we were sitting, over my shoulder. Wish I had a better picture of the spot. Someday we will go back!

As we talked about the whole thing, I found out that he had indeed talked to my parents--while I was in Europe on a chorale trip, six weeks earlier. Smooth move!

I wrote in my journal that night, "I am the happiest girl on the planet today..." Two days later I had to say goodbye to Steve for the zillionth time--except no longer as my boyfriend, but as my fiance. Glorious upgrade in title.

At the end of the summer, my boss invited me to stay on in Denver. Although the offer was tempting, I couldn't fathom being that far from Steve long-term. We ended up working out an arrangement where I could freelance for KBM from home part-time, and I moved back in with my parents to spend the next ten or so months working and planning a wedding. Steve and I would spend the rest of our engagement 3.5 hours apart, which was bad enough!

[coming up next: a wrap-up, finally, with some concluding thoughts from both of us]

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

NOT for Common Use

Upon visiting the local studio to ask for advice, I found out how much I didn’t know about dance shoes. The strappy heels I’d seen on display during our lessons weren’t merely “shoes that are good to dance in”—they were “shoes that are ONLY for dancing in.” Our instructor informed me that you never, ever wear your dance shoes outside. You bring them in a bag and put them on when it’s time to dance. They have suede soles, perfect for both spinning and traction, but also easily ruined. In other words, if I chose to purchase some ballroom dance shoes, they would most certainly not double as party shoes. If they were to retain the very features that made them good for dancing, they would have to be kept aside, reserved for special use.

A similar rationale accompanies the worship regulations described in Exodus 30. The anointing oil is sacred; God instructs Moses to use it for consecrating priests and objects within the tabernacle only. And God means business. The recipe isn’t a guarded secret; it’s clearly described here—but anyone who tries to make his own sweet-smelling oil or put the real stuff on an outsider “shall be cut off from his people” (v. 33). God’s instructions are explicit: “This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person” (v. 31-32).

The holy incense was protected by similar regulations: Make this exactly according to instructions, and don’t you dare mix up any for your own common use. This specific blend of spices was carefully hoarded, not to be used anywhere but in the temple.

These stringent restrictions were dismantled in a stunning way a few centuries later. And after Jesus had risen again, He would do something unbelievable, something vaguely akin to letting my little niece wear my ballroom dance shoes to an outdoor princess party.

Head over to Pick Your Portion today for the rest of my reflections on Exodus 30 and the shocking way God turned His own rules upside down. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 317

"The root of godlessness is thanklessness. Wickedness springs up in me — when I am thankless. 

There is Buchanan’s startling realization: “All the wickedness in the world begins with act of forgetting.” All the wickedness in the world begins with the act of forgetting — forgetting that God is enough, that what He gives is good enough, that there is always more than enough to give thanks for.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom — and the forgetting of the Lord is the beginning of all sin. Forget to give thanks — and Who you forget is God."

--Ann Voskamp, "The Real Root of Brokenness That We Forget to Talk About"

OY. How have I not done one of these for the better part of a month?? So very many gifts over the last few weeks, more than I've bothered to count. A few highlights to go back and note: thanking God for...

5982. putting me on an old friend's heart during a week when I needed prayer
5983. a divine appointment with a new friend
5984. the fact that she lives five minutes down the road from me!
5985. the way her love for Him challenged, convicted, encouraged and inspired me
5986. four hours of deep, real conversation

5987. grace to say no to my flesh
5988. an incredible weekend retreat with the woman who began as my mentor over a decade ago
5989. beautiful songs that exactly express my heart
5990. communion
5991. gracious confrontation and admonishment

5992. heartfelt repentance
5993. Jesus' blood that covers even my imperfect confession and inadequate repentance
5994. grace to surrender
5995. His patience when I am reluctant
5996. grace to own my mistakes but not berate myself

5997. husband serving, serving, serving
5998. snow day with *actual* snow, enough for sledding and snow ice cream!
5999. lunch with my parents, brother, and future sister-in-law
6000. Jude's first-ever visit all by himself at Grammy & Pops's house
6001. their spoiling him, and later his brother, rotten

6002. text updates and pics from my mom
6003. opportunities to practice resolving conflict
6004. one-on-one time with Elijah
6005. big squeezes from Jude
6006. Elijah's crazy excitement to take his turn and go home with Grammy and Pops

6007. what the Law could not do, God did!
6008. $3.99 flowers at Aldi
6009. five beautiful women around my table
6010. Elijah's crazy excited dance to see Mama and Jude again
6011. being able to trust my parents to use carseats correctly

6012. an afternoon with a dear friend who lives too far away
6013. our kids playing so well together
6014. boys unbelievably angelic on a day when I anticipated lots of issues
6015. the ability to stay in bed when sick, while Steve cared for me and the boys
6016. The Message