Archive - creative non-fiction RSS Feed

When Your Ceiling Caves In: Thoughts on Being First Time Homebuyers

1345695_22962544

My husband Jeremiah and I were super excited, but not naive. Enough trusted people in our lives had told us how much work goes into owning a home. This was going to be our very first home that we would close on in just a few hours.

We did the walk-thru with our realtor, Susan, making sure repairs had been made and that all was well and it was… until… we made our way upstairs and opened the door to the attic.

“Babe, can you walk across there and take down those tacky white curtains hanging in the dormers?”

They had been annoying me for a while now, especially because they were visible from the road. Jeremiah takes his first few steps, slowly. I had this odd feeling something was about to happen.

If you remember Chevy Chase in the classic movie, Christmas Vacation, you probably recall him falling through the ceiling while reminiscing over old home videos. Well, that’s basically what went down yesterday.

Jeremiah took another step and part of the floor caved in. It happened to be the dining room ceiling.

My godly, soon-to-be seminary graduate was in shock. “I’m not sure if I want to cuss or laugh! So I think I’ll laugh,” he said.

My eyebrows were raised the whole time, and then I just started cracking up. We knew we wanted the house. We were just about to close. But, really? The ceiling? Oh dear. Should we still close on this house?

Susan couldn’t believe what she was seeing either. “Well, it looks like this is going to be your first repair,” she said. All of us laughed together.

As we walked out of the door, Jeremiah assured me that regardless of the circumstances, this was what we were supposed to do and better that this happened now than later with kiddos around. On our way to the title company, we were laughing so hard about the whole situation. He was already formulating a plan on how he would fix it and what he would need to get at Home Depot.

“Maybe this will encourage you when it comes to fixing all the other future repairs and updates,” I said trying to look on the bright side.

He smiled and assured me that he was up for the task. I had no doubt he would get it done and do it well.

Well, yesterday was just the beginning of our first home buying experience. We chose a two-story house about 10 minutes away from the city, close to Jeremiah’s work. It was built in 1964 and hasn’t had any major updates, but has a ton of potential- nothing a little paint can’t fix! The house is awesome space-wise as everyone will have their own room. It’s going to take a lot of cleaning practice making sure 5 bedrooms are in order.

We were able to get an incredible deal on the home as well. It’s only a few miles away from one of our favorite lakes for running and biking and it’s near a beautiful botanical garden that everyone in Dallas seems to frequent. Not to mention, a park and playground that the kids love are five houses down.

But like I said, the house is older so with that comes a lot of work. And I can only naturally relate this whole house experience to life because it has taught me so much already. Having the ability to own a home and fill it with good things is a gift, but it will not satisfy the deepest cravings in my heart. Only God will be able to satisfy those needs.

Our new house will also, in one way or another, disappoint us. Stuff will break. Pipes will leak. There will always be work. There will be new challenges that didn’t exist in an apartment and there will be new worries and fears.

But Lord willing, God will use this house as a place to show his love, be hospitable, share the gospel, disciple our children, grow our marriage, nurture authentic relationships, make friends and family feel welcome, and teach us more about Himself. And I am definitely excited about that. Most of all, my prayer is that this home will glorify God and that it will be a place where His purposes are accomplished in our family and among the people we will live near.

Until we move out of seminary housing at the end of April, we will be painting, getting appliances, and doing lots of dirty work. Well that is, mostly my husband, family, and friends since I shouldn’t be around paint being pregnant.

Oh yeah and we’ll also be praying that nobody else falls through the ceiling.

On Sailing… and Serving Others With Your Gifts & Passions

seawolf050208_004-78152039_std3
On Saturday, I surprised Jeremiah with a boat ride for his birthday. We boarded a beautiful wooden catamaran that seated about 30 people. Scott was our captain. He was super friendly and we knew we were in for a treat on the lake. It was just what we needed after a stressful week.
About 30 minutes into our sail, Scott came by to accept our payment. Jeremiah initiated a conversation with Scott on how he got involved in sailing.

“I got on the computer and Googled ‘how to build a boat,’ ” he said.

“I found all the necessary resources and started building. I never dreamed I’d be taking 35 trips a week and that my business would grow like this…”

Then he said something profound that stuck with both of us:

“I think it’s important to find what you love to do and serve others through it.”

You could tell that Scott had what he wanted in life. He’d been married to his wife of 30+ years, his children were grown and doing well, and he was doing what he absolutely loved. But not only that, he was blessing the lives of a lot of people- every week.

Scott takes a shot of us behind the wheel

During the remainder of the trip, I thought about how God distributes gifts to people and how the purpose of those gifts are to edify and equip the Church. So often it’s easy to get caught up in the what-my-gift-will-do-for-me kind of mentality.

But it’s not about that at all. Certainly, our gifts and passions draw us closer to God, make us come alive, and give us meaning and purpose. But our gifts aren’t supposed to be hoarded and hidden inside our own little box.

We’re supposed to give our gifts away. And if we think anything different, we’re missing the boat.

I don’t know if you’ve found your gift or the one thing you want to spend your life doing. I don’t know if you’re discouraged in that pursuit or if you believe you have something to contribute to this world.

But what I do know is God created you for a purpose and that involves building into the lives of others.

You have something to offer that no one else does and other people need you to draw out your gifts, however that might look and whatever risks that might involve.

When you view your gifts with an outwardly-focused kind of mentality, your life will change drastically. Your perspective will shift off of yourself and onto how God can use you to make a difference in the lives of others.

In middle school, I started journaling. It was how I felt closest to the Lord and it was the easiest way for me to write out my prayers and remember them. It also came natural, just like the assignments did in my Creative Writing classes. After receiving my first publishing contract in college (7 or so journals later), I realized that God was starting to call me out of my comfort zone of personal journaling and into riskier territory of writing for an actual audience.

As the years passed and I started writing for other publications and eventually writing Bible study curriculum for churches across the country, I realized even more that writing was my number 1 passion. But the best thing about it was that I could use my writing to serve and encourage other people and help build God’s kingdom. My focus, including my goals, started to shift. Still today, I’m learning what it means to be outwardly-focused and I’ve found so much joy in the journey.

“Find what you love and serve others.”

I’ll always remember the wisdom Captain Scott imparted to us that evening and I hope it will encourage you too.

*From the Archives*- You Might Also Enjoy Reading…

Daring to Risk a Little More

The Joy of Being on Mission

Five Minutes to Let It Shine

Give Yourself Away

 

 

 

The Stuff That Satisfies (Hint: It’s Not Stuff)

vinbirdclose-1

photo: G&B's Art Gallery

Downtown Dallas sits proudly right outside our window. Every morning, I look forward to opening the blinds and watching the sun rise over the skyscrapers. We’re among a few of our friends who have a stunning view in seminary housing. We feel pretty blessed to live in an apartment that people typically pay big bucks for.

But don’t be fooled. On a tight seminary budget we aren’t rolling in the dough by any means!

And that’s just where my heart often longs for more especially since the discipline of being frugal can get old. While all my needs are being met in addition to my wants and then some, the sinful part of me believes that stuff will satisfy my deepest longings. And I’m not just talking about the “big” stuff. The silly, little stuff too.

God desires to bless me and to give me good things but it’s the coveting, obsession, mismanaging, greed, lack of contentment and making comparisons that are like poison to the soul.

True life and contentment can only be found in a person and that person is Jesus. Life cannot be found in material possessions or gadgets or other goodies. I’ve looked and I just can’t seem to find it. Life just doesn’t exist there.

I don’t need to worry about the stuff that will fill up my life on a daily basis either. As always, Jesus has a way of gently shooting straight to the core:

Consider the ravens; they do not sow or reap, yet they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! – Luke 12:24

Will God take care of me and even give me my deepest desires? Certainly. They might look different than what I thought but he promises to provide for me. And a raven… A bird that isn’t attractive or special… God has his eye on and cares for.

God is much more concerned about the details of my life than a raven.

He knows about the stuff I long, but he wants me to learn to lean on Him before I try to put my trust in things that have the potential to greatly disappoint and that aren’t eternal.

Even though our budget might not look like anyone else’s right now, the truth is that I have more than I could ever imagine materially and spiritually. Above all, I have Jesus, my ultimate joy and satisfaction in life. And He is enough.

Do you ever long for more stuff? Is there anything stealing your satisfaction in Christ?

On Loving People for Who They Are: Meet Danny

love

Danny bags groceries at the Kroger we shop at every week. He’s in his 30s and has a disability where he speaks and walks slowly. A few months ago I decided that I wanted to help show my two-year-old John that people like Danny are to be acknowledged and treated just like anyone else, no matter if they look or act differently.

So, I would whisper into John’s little ear: “Can you say hi to Danny, John?”

“Hi, Danny!” he would say and Danny would smile.

One day we had two carts of groceries to haul out and John told me he wanted Danny to push the cart he was sitting in. Not Momma. It was precious. Danny took the cart and John was absolutely delighted.

Yesterday, as soon as we got to Kroger, John asked where Danny was and I thought to myself:

John gets it

I realize the innocence in John’s heart. He sees the world in a lens that my tainted eyes do not see. He is a child and doesn’t fully understand the differences in people, but I believe he comprehends more than I think. He has a unique sensitivity towards Danny that is convicting.

The truth is that “Danny’s” are everywhere. God has been really impressing upon my heart to be intentional about loving people who are different than me and who I wouldn’t naturally start up a conversation with or even hang out with. He is teaching me about compassion and mercy.

People, no matter their race, differences, or disabilities deserve to be loved because they are created in the image of God. And as a Christian, I’ve been called to love all people, especially the unlovable.

I have to admit that I struggle at times with elevating myself or judging someone based on external appearances. And I know that it’s not only shallow, but it’s sinful. I’ve been moved by the verse:

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. – Luke 6:42

This verse has not only challenged me when it comes to watching my judgmental thoughts towards people, but it has shown me that I have my own set of issues, habits, quirks, inconsistencies, disabilities and more. They might not be so obvious, but they still exist. Most of all, I’m learning about my own brokenness and God’s perfection.

Through a process, and I mean process, God is helping me to get the big, fat plank out of my own eye. Did I mention it’s big? He’s continuing to use people like Danny to teach me some big truths about the meaning of love.

The innocence and purity I get to see in John’s heart is what I need desperately and I’m willing to let God really mess with me so that I’ll truly love people for who they are. Plain and simple.

Has anyone stumbled upon your path that you need to love unconditionally? Do you have a “Danny” story?

* Name changed to Danny to protect privacy

An Anthem of His Faithfulness

Every seat in the chapel was filled. The doors on each side stayed open for Michigan’s August breeze to make its way in. I looked for a place to sit and found a spot on the end of a pew. As I sat down, I felt relieved that my husband was keeping the kids so I could have some time to sit and be still. Besides, this was my vacation.

God, I want to hear you tonight, I prayed. It’s so hard to hear you when the daily grind can get so noisy.

Sara Groves started playing the piano and singing:

I can’t remember a trial or a pain He did not recycle to bring me gain

I can’t remember one single regret In serving God only, and trusting His hand

All I have need of, His hand will provide

He’s always been faithful to me

I tried to recollect a time when God was unfaithful to me and I simply could not. Even at a point in my life when I chose the temporal pleasures of sin over following Him, He remained faithful- patiently pursuing me and calling me to his side.

And all the needs I have ever had, great or small, he has provided regardless of my worry and doubt.

I thought about the concerns and fears I have with the future and I was comforted that God those too, but my uncertainties don’t change the fact of Who He Is. And if I had to follow Him all over again, in the joys and the hardships, I would still surrender my life to Him.

Sara played on and transitioned into the old hymn:

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed thy hand hath provided

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me

A man in his 60s stood up as she sang. I imagined his life and the possible trials he has probably faced. I thought about how he’s further along in the journey than I. Then another person in the distance stood and then another. I got goosebumps. Before I knew it, handfuls of people were standing.

Knots grew tight in my throat. God had been so faithful to me and rarely did I thank Him and stand upon that. I felt such conviction. My pride tried to keep me planted in that hard wooden pew, but I rose to my feet anyway. Tears filled my eyes and I confessed to God where I had fallen short.

God, forgive me for not regularly expressing gratitude to you for all you have done. Change me.

I observed all that was happening around me and soon enough, everyone was standing. Some lifted their hands in humbleness. God’s presence filled the air and it was heavenly and so sweet. It didn’t matter what journey any of us had traveled, this was our anthem together.

An anthem of His faithfulness.