“This Momentary Marriage”

(Warning: long post ahead. Grab hot tea, or coffee, or a beer AND a snack.)

I’m quite young. I have much to learn. But I have learned much for a young woman my age.

I feel quite overwhelmed with humility for God having placed me where I am right now. I’m honored that He saw me as fit to be the wife of an incredible man who loves Him – not to mention a mother figure in the lives of two wonderful young boys. I’m honored to be chosen for someone, three someones. It’s completely surreal. It’s a life-long dream come true.

The past few months have been a radical life adjustment, a paradigm shift, an exciting new adventure down a similar road I was on before – only this time it’s with someone at my side. I’ve learned so much about myself and how I operate because there’s this man is in my life for good. He is constantly learning more about me, and I about him, because we’re in this together. I’m learning so much about myself: about how I process, how I communicate, how I actually feel at any given moment. When you’re single you can just ignore those things because you’re not accountable to really work on them. With my almost husband (as I like to call him), I have to work on them; I have to open up and share how I am feeling even when I don’t want to because it’s helpful for our relationship to communicate these things.

The great lesson of prioritizing is also on my plate. I used to have a million friends and time for nearly all of them. This is a hard lesson for me to have to give some of that up – to learn that my time first belongs to God, followed by my almost husband and two delightfully sweet boys, followed by my family and close friends, and then whoever else I can manage to make time for. This was a swift change in my life and difficult to remember that I cannot allow myself to feel guilty when I don’t have time to spend with everyone. (Let’s not forget to mention I work 30 hours each week, I’m almost finished with a wedding gown for a client and then will begin on mine, all while planning a wedding. Suffice it to say I’m sleeping a lot less than I’d like and drinking way more coffee than my body appreciates. I know the planning and the wedding gowns are really only a short season. But let me say, it breaks my heart to see my guest list for our wedding and know I’ve only seen a handful of some of my closest friends a few times in the past month.)

Not only have I begun learning a better communication process with Kelly, and am learning to be confident in who I am and how my time is spent, but I’ve learned one other pretty rad thing: God has blessed me with the (or at least some of the) character that I have been asking Him for over the past few years. Kel and I have been reading through “This Momentary Marriage” by John Piper. It’s a really good, foundational book for those who are married – or, forget it – it’s a really good book and you should read it whether you’re married, single, or especially if you’re in a relationship headed toward marriage. And because if you follow the link I attached to the book title, it’s a FREE download, therefore you have no excuse not to read it. Just sayin’.

Of course, the things I’ve prayed to God for over the years have been pretty basic stuff: that the man I will marry should be one who loves the Lord with all of his heart, mind and strength, that he is willing to lead myself and our future family spiritually, that he would protect and guide our family in daily life, that he would be adventurous and willing to do crazy stuff with me, and that he daily follows what God asks him to do with his life. Yes, that’s a laundry list, but to my sheer amazement God fulfilled ALL of those desires of my heart in Kelly and more. (Don’t ask about the “more” part, because I don’t even know where I would begin at this point.) As we read through the first seven chapters I was delighted again and again that God had done such a marvelous work in preparing Kelly and I to meet and be married. All of these little details He orchestrated, things I couldn’t have even begun to hope and wish for lest my heart be crushed. Kelly is – for me – the perfect man to marry. No, he’s not perfect, nor am I, but we are perfect for one another. That’s what’s important. And that’s probably why we’re shotgunning this dating/engagement process – because deep down in our hearts we know that this is God’s will for us. And if you wanna get persnickety in the details, God pretty much told me out of the clear, blue sky that I’m supposed to marry him. But that’s another story for another day. I guess my point in saying all of this is that this book is rad and it has reminded me over and over again (as if I needed a reminder!) that Kelly is the only man for me, the one for me, my match, and a Godly, wonderful one at that.

Then we hit chapter eight in the book, all about the role of the woman in marriage and the mysterious thing of submission. No, I was not dismayed when I read the chapter, I was encouraged; it’s an insightful, beautiful look into Ephesians 5:22. And let me say before my next point, that Kel and I have been going through some rough stuff on the periphery of our lives. It has not been an easy few months for us because it seemed for weeks on end that every time we turned around we would smack right into a difficult situation, a family member with health problems, roadblocks for work or business, you name it. We’ve been put through the fire. Because of these fires, I have become more and more confident in our relationship and our ability to trust God and weather whatever life throws at us. So when we hit the chapter about the biblical and Godly role of a wife I was a little nervous hoping that I wasn’t completely failing. We came to this section, which reads:

She looks away from the troubles and miseries and obstacles of life that seem to make the future bleak, and she focuses her attention on the sovereign power and love of God who rules in heaven and does on earth whatever he pleases (Ps. 115:3). She knows her Bible, and she knows her theology of the sovereignty of God, and she knows his promise that he will be with her and will help her and strengthen her no matter what. This is the deep, unshakable root of Christian womanhood. And Peter makes it explicit in verse 5. He is not talking about just any women. He is talking about women with unshakable biblical roots in the sovereign goodness of God—holy women who hope in God. (p. 97)

At the time I was the one reading aloud sitting in front of Kel as he gave me an exquisite (and much needed) shoulder rub, and he just stopped me, hugged me, and said, “Hey, that’s you he’s talking about. That’s my Annie.” Oh man, and I cried. I’m crying now. I’m quite thankful for the blessings God has poured on me, the strength He’s given me, and thankful for His blessed sovereignty in His orchestration of my life.

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God Has Provided

It is with deepest gratitude and joy that I am able to write this! I spent much of yesterday praying and searching high and low for a place to live. I, quite clearly, felt a bit of frustration and even discouragement. My motives were put on the stand. My desires were hanging in the balance. And my hope rested on God’s ultimate will.

Last night I sat on the beach at sunset wondering why God had been so silent all day long. I thought it rather funny to think that He is silent when the ocean He created was roaring, crashing and breaking just before my eyes. It is in the moments of deep frustration that we often go back to the core and ask, “Alright, God, you haven’t responded yet, so what is it about you that I do know?” And the joyful part of that question is reveling in God’s far reaching goodness to us. So after about an hour of this reveling (despite my circumstances) I went back to the house and got ready for church. As I drove into the quaint little beach town of Carpinteria I thought, “Wow, this place is quaint. Santa Barbara is overwhelming, but this place I could manage. How cute!”

During church my dear friend called me and left a voicemail, and immediately texted me saying she may have found me a place to live. I figured this was God speaking just a little more directly than through the pastor (though what he had to say was rather amazing, also), so I walked outside to return her call.

Turns out she has a friend (who also graduated from Westmont) in Carpinteria who has a room which just became available. The family is willing to host me rent free (though I purpose to get a job and pay at least some rent). And may I just say, all of the details, the family, the location – completely divine. The house is just five blocks from the church I have been planning to attend since my first visit last March. The house is also only four blocks from the beach. I already adore the socks off of the wonderful wife and cannot wait to spend some more time with her. And after spending a few moments chatting with her husband I have a sneaking suspicion he is a man that enjoys some good, awkward humor and laughing a lot. They have three beautiful children, the eldest I met and I must say he is a handsome and well mannered young boy. This family is already a blessing and I can barely wait to move in.

I’ll have to give you yet another walking tour very soon. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your prayers alongside me the past few days. Glory to God.

Time for Battle

We all know I’ve been ready for this journey to Santa Barbara for almost a year now. I’ve been talking about it, excited about it, and ready to leave little Bend for a sprawling metropolis. God faithfully paved the way, and along the way He has given me such great gifts I cannot help but praise Him. He has also challenged me greatly and given me two battles to fight; one of which I will tell you about.

I do not feel welcome in this place. I do not feel peace here, though I feel peace about being here and God’s will for me here – please understand the difference. I am still without a home and my time is running out in the place I currently stay. I was told very plainly by Him that I would need to fight to stay here. This is not something I was anticipating God to say. I am exhausted and have been running hard every day for weeks in preparation to come here, but I know God is faithful to renew my strength and I have no doubts He will guide me into just the right place for this term. I greatly appreciate your prayers and thank those of you doing footwork for me in trying to find a home for the next five months. May God bless you.

Isaiah 40

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD,
or what man shows him his counsel?
Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?
Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?
An idol! A craftsman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and casts for it silver chains.
He who is too impoverished for an offering
chooses wood that will not rot;
he seeks out a skillful craftsman
to set up an idol that will not move.

Do you not know? Do you not hear?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

Happy New Year

Hello friends. I wish I’d had the time to write this a little sooner, but I am sure you must understand I have been a little strapped on time. I wanted to send an informal but very important “Thank You” to each of you for all of your love and support over the years and especially over the past few weeks as I have prepared for my transition into a new adventure. I will soon take time for actual thank you cards and hopefully be able to get through all of your encouraging and loving words without crying a river of tears. I will be back, though, for God seems to love cliffhangers as much as I do. I seem to have tripped over my own words which said, “I will not date until school is over for the sake of focus. I also do not plan to come back to Bend after school,” and right into the arms of an amazing man. So, Kelly, I hope this made you blush just a little. And to the rest of you, happy new year. I’ll be seeing you soon.
Blessings,
Andrea

Photobooth Crazies.

The Spirit of Life

I have been processing and contemplating numerous things these past few weeks. Jesus-Love. Dangerous living. Sacrifice. Right and wrong religion. Justice. Love. Heartache. Social norms and expectations. Coffee. (OK, maybe not coffee, but because I’m sipping coffee at this moment, I figured I’d throw it in there.)

Since my announcement to close the doors on my company I’ve felt free. Free to pursue what I feel is the absolute passion that lies in the deepest part of my soul. My direction and efforts no longer feel like a means to an end. I haven’t been able to fall asleep at night because my mind is racing excitedly about the adventure that lies ahead. I think about advocacy, and justice, and Jesus, and love, and what in the world should love look like? What does God want those things to look like (in my life, in the church)? Who is the real Jesus? I’m talking about the one in the bible, not the one the recent culture of the American “church” has made Him out to be (because for the most part we’ve done a terrible job at knowing Him and following His example).

Last week I listened to this sermon (entitled: Love as Dogma, November 22, 2009 – um, as well as the week prior by Ed Underwood, amazing), and I simply burned with passion. Tears flowed uncontrollably out of my eyes because we, the church, have lost sight of the beauty of Jesus and His humble example for us. We don’t know who He is anymore. We don’t know how to follow Him anymore because tradition and our own desires and comfort have gotten in the way. That breaks my heart; I walk around with a nearly consuming sadness inside of me because of that. Really, there are no words to describe it to you properly. I challenge you to take the time and listen to that message.

“Love as Dogma” was yet another defining moment in my pursuit of justice and how I will be able to make an impact in this world for the glory of God. I realized that my life may not consist of being a full time missionary overseas. I still envision my life being dangerous. I still envision going to the places that nobody else wants to go. I still long to meet and love on and provide for those that most everybody else has forgotten about. I want to ask the hard questions in search for the difficult answers. And most importantly, I want to carry their voices to the place that they are scarcely heard: to the United States. That is my passion. I beg you to seek for yours if you haven’t found it already.

My heart longs for us to take Jesus for who He actually is and to live love and justice. I want us to question why it is we go to church every day in order that we may actually be the buzz word of our generation: authentic. I want us to question the hurt in this world and to not be overwhelmed at the answer: that we are a part of the problem, and that we can also be a part of the solution. I want us to not be overwhelmed and to simply realize that we, each and every one of us, are created to do something related to biblical justice: whether it is in our immediate sphere of influence and our community, or if it is a radical life comparable to of one of the greats that went before us (Locke, Gandhi, Mandela…).

Let us take courage. Let us ask the hard questions. Let us follow our passions with great fervor. Let us live like we believe our convictions, and let us live that in real love, in Jesus-love.

Exhale of Joy

Do you ever wake up from a night of silent, dreamless sleep, and there’s nothing you can do except smile as you prepare for the day? You feel an overwhelming sense of peace, a rightness in the world that scarcely makes itself known, a silent rhythm of perseverance.

I had that morning. It lingers. I am exhaling joy.

Granted, there is a story behind this that begs telling.

Justice has been served. In a world teeming with corruption and malice where horrific acts take place more often than we care to ponder; one case of injustice will be set right, at least in the eyes of the law. Words can scarcely make an appeal to my elation. A little girl and her brother will (hopefully) never again be molested. They now have the chance to heal, to make a clean break, and I pray to God that they are given the fullness of that opportunity. Innocence was ripped away without permission and smothered as if it didn’t matter. It was concealed and denied. And now the oppressor faces his due punishment, for that I am thankful.

So much is affected by injustice. There is so much to consider. Injustice is not only an act, it is not only a series of: injustice, investigation, justice served. Injustice lingers. It follows lives to their end like a black cloud and sometimes lingers over the following generation of those originally affected. This breaks my heart more than I can elude to on a blog. I simply cannot begin to try.

And when I cannot find the words to speak, to tell a story, I will pen a poem in hopes that some expression will come from my heart that sends the message I intend. For my friend Michelle and all of her courage:

Magnificent is the beat of the heart of Justice
Riding in stronger than the armies of old
Wielding a sharper sword and farther reaching weapons
Than any injustice could imagine
As they creep and hide and commit their crimes
Denying and conspiring that Justice is not great enough
In the darkest corners it ruins and smothers and sabotages
Innocence and rights are laid waste
and left to suffer silently, endlessly, without hope
Until Justice makes a fool of its powerless enemy
By lighting the concealed atrocities and
Ripping apart the haughty enemy
To give due diligence and freedom
healing and hope
to the victims and to the wounded
To sound the song of victory
Making known the all-consuming power
of Justice at its best
A foretelling that injustice will never have the last word
And this time injustice has not seen impunity
It will not be the last
For Justice rides on in triumph

 

A Bad Word

Obedience.

You know what I mean. It’s not a bad word, but it definitely evokes this feeling inside of you…that gritting-of-the-teeth kind of feeling. I have been thinking about this word a ton lately. In fact, I’ve been over thinking what obedience is and looks like and should look like… which led me to some peaceful conclusions, but I was left looking at a lot of the small stuff and missing a part of the big picture.

If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that things haven’t exactly played out as I had planned, or even as I thought God had planned for me. And over the last year I’ve really tried hard to obey the voice of God in my life. More than anything I wanted to be close to Him, and I knew obedience to do some crazy things (like go serve in Africa) would get me there. But when my accident happened I had to rethink some things and examine my motives again. Again. Ugh.

A part of my heart was devoted to Jesus, but I think more of it was devoted to the cause He started. Oswald Chambers said this, “The moment you realize God’s purpose, which is to get you rightly related to Himself and then to your fellow men, He will tax the last limit of the universe to help you take the right road.” I hope against hope I’m solidifying this in the foundation of my faith that will help me be more and more obedient to God as the days pass.

I was studying and praying this week to prepare to teach on Thursday night. Teaching is not my thing, let’s just get that out there. So instead I decided to share my story about what I’ve been learning about obedience this year. The gist of it being that it’s not about what I do, but it’s about how much and whether or not I’m being obedient to God. Because obedience is more a state of being that one single action, when you really think about it (or, when you look it up on dictionary.com, as I did and actually learned that’s what it meant).

Obedience to God is not about following a kazillion rules to avoid being sent to hell. Obedience is about choosing God always. It’s about fully surrendering. It’s about finding God’s strength to obey when you feel you can’t possibly. It’s about loving God. And as a result of our obedience we will find our fullness in God because we will trust that His joy is what will make us complete. And His joy is to be glorified. Thus, our lives are to glorify Him no matter what that feels like to us; whether it is joy or sorrow, happiness or mourning, easy or difficult.

I read yet another Chambers devotional and he talked about the fact that we are not in a relationship with God for God to make a success of our lives. Our obedience to God is not the means to an end or means to a successful life. “It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God.”

That, friends, is my aim. Deuteronomy 7:9-11