Archive | May, 2015

8 Years.

22 May

This past Tuesday, Travis and I celebrated 8 years of marriage. Since we dated a little over 2 years before tying the knot, we’ve been together for 10 years. A full decade. Besides making me feel old, that length of time makes me feel grateful. Grateful most of all for our God who doesn’t give up on us, but keeps blessing us abundantly and transforming us into His Son. Grateful for Travis, who bears with all my flaws, failures and annoying habits with patience, thoughtfulness and humor. Grateful for our two amazing daughters, who are both blessings and opportunities for growth.

Ten years ago, Travis and I were baby believers. We had both trusted in Christ as our Lord and Savior just a year before. We were diving headfirst into the community of Campus Outreach (CO), a campus ministry we got involved with through the friends who led us to Christ, soaking up truth and fellowship like sponges. Even though we both grew up going to church — me, Lutheran and him, Catholic — we knew practically nothing about the Bible, salvation and what it meant to be a Christian. God surrounded us with passionate Christians who were gung-ho about Jesus. Besides going to class and studying, we spent most of our waking hours going to Wednesday night meetings (which, by a vote, were named both “Ministry Training Time”, and “Travis”), Sunday school, Sunday services, Sunday night prayer meetings, weekend Nerts competitions, study breaks during finals with banana chocolate chip pancakes, and get-togethers organized by CO.

Halloween 2006 088

Some may look at that lifestyle and think “Whoa, CULT!?!?!?” But for us, it was life-giving. Campus Outreach is a very unique atmosphere — like a greenhouse for spiritual growth. Ten years later, I can say that I have not seen such intentionality and vulnerability anywhere else. It was especially good for me and Travis, who had both had previous romantic relationships that weren’t healthy or glorifying to God. We both lost our virginity in high school and did our fair share of partying. In Campus Outreach, we had strong Christians to mentor us, not only in our budding faiths but also in our relationship with one another.

Halloween 2006 050

In my case specifically, I went from making out with random guys at parties and sleeping around (before I was a Christian) to not even holding Travis’ hand for the first 4 months we were dating. We were both in Myrtle Beach at the CO Beach Project soon after we started dating and when we hung out together alone, we took long walks on the beach and got ice cream. Afterward, when we were back at home base (an old hotel that our whole group of 75 students was staying in), Travis would say goodbye by playfully punching my arm, “Well, see ya later.” When he did finally hold my hand in the back of my parents’ conversion van on the way home from a canoe trip with my whole family that August, my heart leaped with butterflies. Two months later, after much consultation and advice-seeking from his mentors, Travis told me he loved me and we kissed for the first time on a hundred-foot-high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in Winona, Minnesota.

427989_10101733130090340_1641244624_n

It was not easy to date for two years and not have anything go past kissing. We had a couple minor incidences of “crossing the line”, both of which happened when we had had a little bit too much to drink (old habits die hard). Afterward, we talked about what had happened, and in one case, we stopped kissing for about a month to give us time to “cool down” and reflect.

The summer of 2006, when we had been dating for a little over a year, I went back to Myrtle Beach with Campus Outreach and Travis stayed in the Cities. Three and a half months later, Travis and I sat together on the banks of the Mississippi once more, this time on the U of M campus in Minneapolis, and he told me that he knew he wanted to marry me.

That same night, we told each other the complete, ugly stories of our lives before Christ. I won’t lie — it was VERY hard to hear, and to tell. But by God’s grace, we worked through it and can truly say now that our marriage is a story of redemption. Jesus is so much bigger than our baggage and sin.Halloween 2006 063

Halloween 2006 064

On our wedding day almost 9 months after that night, I clutched my dad’s arm and walked down the aisle to a man who was a new creation. It is that same hope of transformation, that same Spirit in us giving us love and compassion that holds our marriage together today. By the grace of God, our marriage is what it is. It’s not perfect — far from it. But with each year that passes, Travis and I understand each other better. We learn what to avoid. How to phrase things. When the best time is to talk. When the other person just needs us to listen. We still forget these things. We’re still selfish and sinful. But we forgive. Move on. Try to bite our tongue next time, or listen better, or let go of our personal desires to fulfill the other’s. We compromise and sacrifice. We encourage and correct. We share and give. We apologize and admit.

I used to beat myself up over not being where I want us to be in our marriage, or not being the kind of wife I want to be. But as Tim Keller says in one of his marriage sermons, marriage is about seeing the potential in the other person. They’re not perfect. They have flaws, sins, failures, annoying habits. But because of the hope we have in Christ and the transforming power of the Spirit, we can look past the rough exterior and see the pearl on the inside. We see what they’re becoming.

wedding_party

wedding

Mother’s Day 2015

20 May

I am very behind on blog posts but since I love to look back at old posts and be reminded of what life was like 1, 2, 5 years ago, I am going to post about these things even though they’re not really ‘timely’ anymore.

For Mother’s Day this year, Travis took care of the girls and let me sleep in. When I got up around 8:15, he had homemade waffles and eggs waiting for me. Delicious!

20150510_085801

We went to the second service at church and then headed home for lunch, which was a veggie pizza from Papa Murphy’s, one of my favorites. When Emma went down for a nap and Annabelle had nursed, I headed to the Y for a swim (this triathlon won’t train for itself). As I swam up and down the pool, lap after lap in my own underwater world, I was transported back to the season of my life when I spent hours upon hours every week getting my body in shape for a race. I remembered the challenge of pushing myself. The satisfaction of being a little sore after a good workout. The thrill of doing something I previously couldn’t. These are the reasons I love endurance sports.

After my wonderful swim (a one-sided pyramid of 200, 50, 300, 50, 400 yards), I went home, nursed Annabelle and we got ready for dinner at Olive Garden. It was a zoo there. We waited 25 minutes for a table and then another hour for our food. Emma was a little rambunctious but she was actually pretty well-behaved considering the situation. Annabelle wasn’t the most content baby ever and I ended having to nurse her a bit. Travis and I didn’t really talk at all during dinner because we were just focused on keeping the kids happy. Ah, such is the life of a mother (and father).

After we got home, Emma went to bed, I spent some more time nursing and bouncing Annabelle and we called it a day. It was a very enjoyable day — the only thing that would’ve made it better is a nap.

IMG_6414

God’s Grace in the Hard

12 May

20150508_160159I mentioned in my last blog post that I recently read Kara Tippett’s book The Hardest Peace. You might not have heard of her, but she just recently passed away after a lengthy battle against breast cancer. She was only 38 and left behind a husband and 4 young kids.

I read the book hoping to gain some insights into how to find peace in the hard circumstances of life. I haven’t mentioned it on the blog yet but my mom is waging her own battle against ovarian cancer. Labor Day this year will mark 2 years since she was diagnosed. Without going into the details here, I’ll just say that the continual appointments, surgeries, chemo treatments, nausea, pain, loss of appetite and weight, complications, needle pokes, hospital stays and other challenges have tested not only her and my dad’s faith, but mine as well.

Meanwhile, I hear stories like Kara’s. Or that of the couple that lives on our street and recently lost their 3-year-old daughter to leukemia. Or a friend from church whose son died from brain trauma at birth. Or an acquaintance from Colorado whose daughter’s heart stopped beating the day before she was supposed to be born via c-section. Or strangers I’ve never even met — a young married couple and their 6-month-old child — who were driving when a bridge collapsed on them and killed them.

And I wonder… WHY????

Why does God allow these things to happen? Why does God leave prayers for healing and wholeness unanswered? Why does God take people when they’re young? Why does God leave their loved ones behind to pick up the pieces of a broken life?

I also wonder… HOW???

How do we trust that God is good in circumstances that seem to scream otherwise? How do we hide ourselves under His wing like a baby chick with its mother when He doesn’t seem to be protecting us from the hurt and hardship of disease and death? When it feels like He’s leaving us exposed and bearing the full brunt of this world’s fallenness and depravity?

My mom’s cancer returned in October of last year. The prognosis was not good. We are praying — begging — for a miracle. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about God’s grace in the hard since then, and have come to the conclusion that…

We trust God is good because He says He is. (Nahum 1:7)

We trust God’s purposes in hardship and disease because He says that His plan is perfect. (Psalm 18:30; Romans 8:28)

We trust God’s promises because He has proven His commitment to and love for us in Christ’s death and resurrection. (2 Corinthians 1:20; Romans 8:32)

We trust God’s love for us because He says nothing can separate us from it in Christ (Romans 8:37-39) and He has demonstrated it tangibly in Christ’s payment for our sins. (Ephesians 2:4-9)

I’ve come to realize that we don’t have to understand WHY or HOW in order to trust God. We trust Him based on His character. We trust Him based on the fact that His ways are higher than ours and if we had a God that we could fully understand, He wouldn’t be big enough.

I’ve also seen the necessity of living with our eyes focused on eternity and the Big Picture that extends beyond this life. Because usually when people talk about the value and importance of suffering and going through hard things, they focus on the growth that results. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” right? Except what if it does kill you or your loved one? What if there is no “after” from which you can look back on the suffering you went through and see the growth or value?

” ‘We want suffering to be like pregnancy–we have a season, and it’s over, and there is a tidy moral to the story.’ I’ve come to sense that isn’t what faith is at all. What if there is never an end? What if the story never improves and the tests continue to break our hearts? Is God still good? … How do you live realistically when you feel like your moments are fading, fleeting, too momentary? How do you fight for normal in the midst of crushing daily news of more hard? How do you seek hope without forgetting reality?” (Kara Tippetts, The Hardest Peace)

We have to believe that the suffering we endure on this earth is being used for our eternal good. That the battle against cancer, disease or persecution is reaping us growth and rewards that we carry into the next life with Christ. Nothing here is wasted, even if (or when) the battle kills us.

We also have to see the immeasurable good of God’s grace in being concerned first and foremost with our souls. Since my mom’s diagnosis, my parents have started to read the Bible daily, pray earnestly and trust God in a practical way that they hadn’t before, for which I am incredibly thankful to God. Being pushed beyond your limits has a way of getting you down on your knees in humility and dependence. Regardless of whether God causes these hard things or just allows them (that’s an argument for another time), He uses the hard things to accomplish His purposes — even if we can’t see what they are right now.

“God’s purposes in present grief may not be fully known in a week, in a year, or even in this lifetime. Indeed, some of God’s purposes will not even be known when believers die and go to be with the Lord. Some will only be discovered at the day of final judgment when the Lord reveals the secrets of all hearts and commends with special honor those who trusted him in hardship even though they could not see the reason for it: they trusted him simply because he was their God and they knew him to be worthy of trust. It is in times when the reason for hardship cannot be seen that trust in God alone seems to be most pure and precious in his sight. Such faith he will not forget, but will store up as a jewel of great value and beauty to be displayed and delighted in on the day of judgment (Wayne Grudem, The First Epistle of Peter).”

It’s hard to trust God in this way, but it’s the only way we’ll have true hope in these kinds of circumstances. I often feel the co-existence of faith and doubt like the father in Mark 9:24 — “I believe; help my unbelief!” God’s grace in the hard is that He meets us where we’re at — in the pain, anger, fear, sadness — and reassures us that He sees and He cares. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) Even when our faith is as tiny as a mustard seed, He loves us. And no matter what the outcome is, He will be there for us with grace, compassion, love and goodness. “All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” (Psalm 25:10)

Worth Repeating {5/1/15}

1 May

This is a weekly series where I share quotes, sayings and verses that I enjoyed and found to be worth repeating.

worth_repeating

It’s been a LOOOONG time since my last Worth Repeating post. I have been reading Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas and Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer — both ridiculously long books that don’t have a ton of quote-worthy material (though good books nonetheless). Hence the lack of quotes to share.

But I’m done reading those and just finished The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts, which contains many things that are worth repeating. I’ll share some in the coming weeks. I also started reading Jesus Calling again, for a quick word of encouragement in these crazy days. Yesterday’s devotion was incredibly relevant to my last post about Not Good Enough so I thought I’d share it today.

When some basic need is lacking — time, energy, money — consider yourself blessed. Your very lack is an opportunity to latch onto Me in unashamed dependence. When you begin a day with inadequate resources, you must concentrate your efforts on the present moment. This is where you are meant to live — in the present; it is the place where I always await you. Awareness of your inadequacy is a rich blessing, training you to rely wholeheartedly on Me.

The truth is that self-sufficiency is a myth perpetuated by pride and temporary success. Health and wealth can disappear instantly, as can life itself. Rejoice in your insufficiency, knowing that My power is made perfect in weakness. (James 1:2; 2 Corinthians 12:9)