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

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.

New Article: The First Argument on StartMarriageRight.com

Our honeymoon had been perfect so far. My husband of four days had blown me away with his romantic surprises. We were giddy about being on the breathtaking Hawaiian island, Kauai, and it seemed like every minute we were relishing in our new love together. But suddenly as we walked along the shore near our cabana, the tides in our relationship changed…

Continue reading over on Start Marriage Right & feel free to chime in with your thoughts.

The Best News You’ll Hear All Christmas

Reflections from Luke 2:1-20

God became a man and lived on earth…

He came by the most humble means and was laid in a manger- a trough or box used to feed animals- very far from a crib in a royal palace. His father and mother, Joseph and Mary, sought a place for Mary to give birth but there was no room in the inn.

After Mary gave birth to the Savior, an angel of the Lord first appeared to shepherds. Humble, lower class citizens of the day and considered unclean- God chose them to be the first to hear the good news of this Savior.

Then that same angel and the heavenly hosts praised God saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

This baby Jesus would bring peace. The peace that mankind had been waiting for all along. His birth would usher in hope and life in the midst of chaos and brokenness.

Then the shepherds traveled to Bethlehem to actually see this Jesus. They saw him, Mary, and Joseph just as they were told. They spread the news to everyone. And everyone was amazed. But Mary hid and treasured all that was going on in her heart. I can only imagine her feelings and thoughts.

Then the shepherds went back to their fields, praising and glorifying God for all they had seen and heard. Finally, the Messiah had come. Not in the way that many expected, but he was here.

So what did this child’s birth mean for all mankind?

Did it mean good cheer, cozy Christmas songs, presents, Santa, snow, a nice manger display on the mantle, parties, charity, family gatherings, and good will toward men?

Those good things are only the outpouring of what this child’s birth means. His birth means so much more for us today.

His birth means that God stepped into history by sending his only son Jesus to earth. Jesus struggled and faced temptation like we do, yet he was sinless. He healed and saved those far from Him. His purpose in coming was to save us from our sins- all our offenses toward God. And they are numerous.

He would come to redeem, restore, renew…

So he did it just as he promised. He proved his love for us on a cross. He died the most shameful, disgusting and horrific death. He screamed. He cried. He agonized. He bled. He asked his father if there was anyway he could save him. But he knew it was God’s will for him to die because it was the only way to save the world.

So he willingly did.

But his death wasn’t the end. He rose again like he said he would. No man has ever raised himself back to life. Only God.

Over 500 witnesses saw his appearing and when his time on earth was finished, he ascended into heaven to be with his father.

Oh but the Christmas story doesn’t end there. Thank goodness. He is coming back for those who know, love, and have committed their life to him. He will one day, judge the living and the dead. And we need to be ready for his coming. We need to revere him and honor him.

Jesus is our hope this Christmas, no matter if we’re jobless, our spouse has been diagnosed with cancer, or we’ve lost a loved one. No matter what we’re going through, He is still our peace. And He is what our hearts are longing for.

Jesus is why we do all that we do in this joyful season. May our hearts be filled with gratitude for the greatest gift that has already been given to us in a manger many years ago.

Big Life Changes and a Never-Changing God

A few weeks ago, Jeremiah accepted a new position at a well-known hospital where we live. Just a few days into his nursing job, the higher-ups decided to get rid of the entire floor he was working on for budget reasons.

All of the staff including his manager are seeking new jobs, hoping that the recruiters in the hospital can place them on another floor soon.

Of course this came out of nowhere for us. Jeremiah was so excited about his new job and I was happy too. We were excited about the awesome benefits and convenience in him walking to work. Clearly, it was God’s will. How could it not be?

But in an instant, that security vanished like a vapor.

Just before Christmas? Really, God?

I’ve asked him many times.

Not only that, in October, we found out we’re expecting a special little gift at the end of June- our third child to which we are very excited!

A job loss while I’m pregnant? Really, God?

I’ve asked him many times.

And in May, Jeremiah will graduate from seminary and before the summer ends, we will have to move out of seminary housing and know where we are going to live and do ministry.

Where do you want us, Lord?

I’ve asked him many times.

Right now, there have been no clear answers to my questions. But I know it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”

And even in the midst of my questioning, a sweet, still voice has spoken truth into my heart. Truth that comes straight from His Word, reminding me that He. Is. God. The God of the Universe who created me and loves me and my family deeply.

When life is crazy and ever-changing, there is no shadow of turning with him as the old hymn says. He is constant, yet fully engaged in the details of our lives.

What I am starting to understand more as He takes me through trials is that he is teaching me God-reliance instead of self-reliance.

Way too often, I love to have the control and to tell him my plans. I’m often wrapped up in self instead of what God is doing. I often forget the bigger picture at hand.

God has proven himself in the past and has always been faithful as I wrote about this past summer, I have no reason to doubt him. It would be foolish to not trust Him this time.

So in this Christmas season, my prayer of course is that Jeremiah will have a job again. Soon! But more than that, my prayer is that God will change me and teach me what it means to cling to Him in the good times and the trying times. I want to look more like Him and give him glory no matter what season of life I’m in.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:5-9

On Sailing… and Serving Others With Your Gifts & Passions

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)

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?

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.

Getting off the Island

If there is anything I’ve learned over the past few years in my journey of faith, it’s that knowing others and being known is absolutely essential as a follower of Christ.

Knowing others in the sense that I know what makes a person tick, their passions, hurts, habits, sin struggles, fears, joys, quirks, flaws, victories, achievements, and more.

Being known in the sense that those close to me know really know me- my insecurities, fears, sin struggles, passions, worries, victories, issues, dreams, and more. And they still accept, love, and spur me on without rejecting those weaknesses or rejecting me alltogether.

I’ve seen this lived out among my community group at church. My husband and I have done life with our group for four years now. The girls in our group- Julia, Jen, Ashley, and Ashley- have seen most of what there is to know about me. The good, bad, and ugly!

Over the years a trust has been built among us. Because authentic community is stressed so much at our church, we’ve been accountable to that and have lived by that standard even when it’s difficult. It’s been life-changing and life-giving for each of us.

John Donne penned the famous quote, “No man is an island.”

I know this, yet my pride often keeps me in isolation and from wanting to be fully known by others. I’d rather hide my weaknesses or do life on my own apart from anyone’s help. I’d prefer they not see any “yuckiness.” But God knows what happens when I’m left to deal with life by myself- it’s never good.

God created us to live in authentic community with other believers, where we are fully known and accepted. Yet where our friends won’t allow us to remain where we are.

We were created to step out of the shallow pool water and plunge into the depths of the ocean. There is no other way to do life.

Will you join me?

Mama, Let Your Light Shine

How is changing diapers, cleaning up messes, and doing it all over again the next day making a difference? Can I be influential, even when I struggle? How can God use me to be on mission with my children? What does God expect from me as a mom?

These were a few questions my husband Jeremiah helped answer in his sermon this past Sunday called “Mama, Let Your Light Shine.”

And let me just tell you…

This message was one of my favorite mother’s day sermons I’ve ever heard! And I promise you I’m not biased. I’ve heard a lot of great messages from some really great pastors.

In November, we started interning at a church plant in a Dallas suburb and the pastor has been kind to give Jeremiah several opportunities to teach God’s word. This was Jeremiah’s first official sermon preached in front of a congregation (not a classroom) since being a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. After he delivered the message, several mothers went up to him saying how much they loved it. One mom asked me, “Why didn’t your husband tell us to bring our kleenex?”

Jeremiah works as an R.N. and one of his patients, who happens to be a famous female actress (I wish I could tell you who!), wanted to listen to it while in her hospital bed and she loved it.

Okay, so enough of me bragging on my husband. I wanted to post the link here for you to download and be encouraged in your mission as a mother. Even if you’re not a mother, I think you’ll be encouraged in your faith.

Download: “Mama, Let Your Light Shine” (38 min., mp3 file)

Switch to mobile version