Lessons on Receiving

Every Christmas growing up, my parents gave the best gifts. They were thoughtful, fun, and just what my sister and I asked for. Giving gifts was one of their top love languages and still is today. So naturally, giving gifts became one of my love languages.

But considering our present circumstances mentioned a few posts ago, I’ve had no choice but to pause and step back when it comes to gift giving. It’s been difficult, humbling, and stretching especially since I find so much joy from it in this season.

the tree

This time last year, I would have had most of my gifts purchased and my Christmas cards sent out. But this Christmas, my cards will probably make in just in time for the 25th and the majority of our gifts will probably be purchased last minute. In the meantime, I’m making/creating more of our gifts this year so we don’t have to go into any debt.

God has also provided for me and my family in unexpected ways this week:

A couple in our church who knew about Jeremiah’s job slipped us a check because they felt God leading them to do so.

  • Another man in our church gave us cash to use for groceries.

My friend Katie helped design our Christmas card and the print-outs will be very inexpensive and still adorable!

  • Between my sister and my parents’ constant generosity to us, Christmas is pretty much already taken care of.
  • Many of my friends here in seminary have randomly asked if I needed the exact thing I was already thinking of. And they gave what they had.
  • We got a beautiful 7-ft. pre-lit Christmas tree for free because the man selling it wanted to help us in our situation.

Coming up on six years of marriage, I don’t think we have ever experienced God’s provision in such a tangible way. We’ve always heard stories of people receiving checks out of the blue. But I thought you had to be super spiritual for that and I honestly didn’t think that would ever happen to us because well, we’d rather give anyway!

But surely there is a time to receive too. I’m learning valuable lessons when it comes to stewardship, budgeting, and putting my security in Christ instead of finances or wealth. I want to give more than I ever have before and be sensitive to those in need. I believe these lessons will be stamped on my life forever.

I definitely have my days of doubting God because I just want to know now what He is doing. I’ve struggled with anger and impatience and wondering if God hears us.

But when I’m able to articulate what’s going on and write it down, I can better see that God really is doing something and sometimes it is His perfect will for us to be on the receiving end and to learn humility.

Yesterday Jeremiah told me, “I think this is going to be a really special Christmas that we’ll always remember.”

I pondered his words for a while and came to the conclusion that I think he is right because somehow, God just has a way of redeeming really tough situations. He always comes through for us, even if it’s right down to the wire.

So the challenge still stands: Will I trust him to provide for us, even when I can’t see what’s ahead? Will I be faithful to God because He is good? 

When World War III Comes to Your Kitchen (& other marriage thoughts)

A few nights ago, my husband and I got into a big argument. We had just gotten home from a long day of flying. We were over-tired and not thinking straight. Words flew carelessly in the air and we threw verbal punches at each other, back and forth.

It was one of those moments where you would be ashamed if anyone took a peep through your door.

While we were on vacation, award-winning Christian song-writer Sara Groves was in concert where we were staying and before one of her songs, she told us she wasn’t going to be ashamed to expose any “dirty laundry” and that she wanted to be transparent with us. She talked about the fights her and her husband have had before.

I resonated with her words and appreciated her brutal honesty. I had thought: Wow, she struggles too? Sara talked a little more and began playing the keys. Here’s what she sang:

We just had a World War III here in our kitchen – We both thought the meanest things

And then we both said them – We shot at each other till we lost amunition

This is how I know our love – This is when I feel it’s power

Here in the absence of it – This is my darkest hour

When both of us are hunkered down – And waiting for the truce

All the complicated wars – They end pretty simple

Here when the lights go down – We roll to the middle

No matter how my pride resists – No matter how this wall feels true

No matter how I can’t be sure – That you’re gonna roll in too

No matter what, no matter what – I’m going to reach for you

(song: “Roll to the Middle”)

I was reminded of our arguments in the past, and how there were sure to be more in the future but how I’ve experienced that our love is always stronger. After Jeremiah and I were finished taking jabs, we came to our senses. We agreed to go to bed and talk in the morning and that we were way overtired.

That morning, I confessed my pride and how I wasn’t even making sense. Jeremiah confessed where he was wrong and we forgave each other. I was reminded of Sara’s song and how true it was in our marriage.

with Sara Groves and my little girl, Rebekah

It didn’t matter what we were arguing about, the truth was that we are for each other. We are on the same team and our love is bigger than any of our petty conflicts. The foundation of our love is Christ.

We were also reminded that on our vacation God blessed us with an incredible, life-changing time, free of any conflicts, and how it would be foolish to allow that disagreement to close out an amazing trip.

Pride turned into humility and that night we rolled to the middle, at peace in our relationship.

Starting Celebrate Recovery

My pastor Todd speaks regularly from the stage about how the healthiest people in our church body are those who’ve gone through Celebrate Recovery and have dealt with their “hurts, habits, and hang-ups” in light of Scripture.

I’ve held back from going to CR for a long time because I didn’t struggle with alcohol addiction or drugs or anything like that. I struggled with other “minor” things you know and I didn’t need a silly program to help me out. God and his Word could help me fine.

Well last Monday, after a long three months of my husband and I deciding to commit, we went to our first meeting. The first part of the night included corporate worship, a personal testimony of someone who’s gone through the 12-18 month program, and a separate introduction for newcomers. One guy on stage introduced himself and said, “I’m a believer in Christ who struggles with pornography.”

My eyes grew wide and I looked at Jeremiah, whispering, “That was really awkward.”

The guy went on to share more about the program.

It was rare to see people so open about their struggles publicly in a safe environment, but I knew God had taken them through a process- the process I was there for.

When it was time to go to our open group consisting of about 15 or so women (they split up men and women), we went around in the circle of complete strangers and shared what we think we struggle with. I was nervous, but when some of the women began to share I realized that none of us were alone. I couldn’t believe some of the stories I was hearing. Then it was my turn. I got a little teary eyed and pushed these words out:

“I don’t want to be here. It’s my pride. But I’m a believer in Christ who struggles at times with anxiety, anger, and control.”

To my surprise, after I confessed those struggles I felt like a balloon that had been popped with a needle! There was such relief and I was one step closer to freedom.

Reflecting on my time that night, I realized that my thinking was so evil and carnal regarding the “bigger” sins. Who was I to think that my sins were less damaging? Or that I was “above” CR? The hard truth is that we all struggle with something and sin is sin no matter what. Perhaps the reason we are Christians is because we don’t have it all together. We must depend on God alone.

I admit, I still have pride in my heart that God is working on and I know it’s going to be a humbling process. I didn’t even want to write this post or really let you know that I’m going through the program. I fought hard at telling you the truth.

But I want to be as authentic as I can with you about my faith and where I’m at.

Well, I probably won’t always write official posts about what’s going on in my life through CR but I’m sure you’ll see glimpses of what I’m learning through my writing. And I hope that whatever God decides to teach me that it will encourage you in your struggles.

Tonight is my second week (taking a deep breath). Maybe it won’t feel as awkward?! Hmm. Probably. not. Yet. We’ll see.

Worship with Ginny Owens

5067_632353611688_55713931_37132356_5936979_nThis past Sunday, Ginny Owens surprised us at church and led our worship. Everyone who loves Christian music, knows Ginny Owens. During the past ten years, she has sold nearly a million records and performed more than 1500 concerts, including sets at prestigious events like Lilith Fair, The Sundance Film Festival, and the White House (ginnyowens.com).

Even though she became completely blind when she was two years old, she mentioned how she’s chosen to allow God to use what she calls shortcomings or “thorns” in the flesh, for his glory.

I really resounded with her words. I often let God know how I can’t do certain things because of this or that. But I really think, like Ginny, that God wants to take those very things within us that we have insecurities about. And He’s not looking for great spiritual giants who have it all together, but more so humble servants willing to admit their weaknesses. I think He does this because He makes Himself strong in our weaknesses and imperfections.

While Ginny was packing up her CDs and belongings before catching a flight out, my son John and I got a chance to meet her. He cooed in her ear and her face lit up.

Her vision for God is the kind of vision I want in my life.

From Cradle to Cross

erebus-cross1.jpg  Santa Claus. Reindeer. Christmas trees with lights. New-fallen snow. Crackling fires. Presents. Malls. Traffic. Children’s smiles. Parties. Boxes of chocolate. Fruit baskets. Advent calendars. Comforting lattes and cocoas. Friends. Family. Memories. Letters. Christmas has a way of warming my heart every year. Truly, there is no season quite like Christmas.

And in the midst of all these gifts from God, too often I forget the real meaning of the season. When I truly allow time to reflect in those moments of stillness, what astounds me the most is that God became flesh and made His dwelling on earth. He was born in a manger of all places. He came to the earth in the ultimate form of humility. He grew in wisdom and stature as a man. He experienced much of what we do; pain, happiness, hunger, and yet he had no stain of sin. He died a gruesome death on the cross to redeem this fallen world and restore what had been lost.

We celebrate the cradle and the cross this Christmas. Above all, we celebrate Love.

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