Quarantinaversary

Today is our 14 year anniversary. We will happily postpone our celebration until we can do something special, i.e. without children. How special it will be to celebrate after this quarantine is over!

I watched the wedding of a girl I used to baby-sit a few weeks ago on Facebook Live. They were unable to have the wedding they had planned due to the virus, but she had moved her wedding date up so her dad could walk her down the aisle. He has been in treatment for stage 4 colon cancer. He was a youth pastor in Springfield, and I worked for him for a few months during and after college. As I watched him walk her down the aisle and then perform the ceremony, it was such an emotional moment.

I listened closely to the wedding message as his marriage to his beautiful wife and my friend is one I have admired for two decades now. He talked to the newlyweds about how to relate to each other when life gets hard, and it will get hard. He talked about being grateful, and as I listened I thought about how God has been teaching me that very lesson for the length of my marriage as well.

I thought I was in good shape getting married at 28. I figured I knew a lot more than the kids who get married at 20, 21, 22. But as they say, you don’t know what you don’t know. I had an expectation that because I had made some great choices and had followed God’s plan for my life as a single, I thought that I would be rewarded with a perfect(ish) marriage. I forgot we were both human. Sinners. People with flaws joining their lives together is a recipe for some conflict. I didn’t talk about this expectation nor was it at the forefront of my mind. It lingered around the edges, tempting me with unhappiness and frustration at every turn. God used a lot of unpleasant, frustrating, devastating circumstances to strip away the fluff and show me the truth: I didn’t deserve anything. Marriage isn’t easy for anyone, and as I let God reshape me personally, I saw my perception of marriage change as well. Is it about what I can get? Or what I can give? Is it about who is doing their part? Or is it about doing everything I can no matter what he does?

The more I grew, the more I saw all I have to be grateful for in life and in marriage. I am not the woman I was 14 years ago. I could wish away the struggles, the hard years and the time I spent clinging to what I wanted instead of letting go and taking what God wanted to give me. But I don’t wish it away because every bit of it has brought me to today, to being able to be grateful for 14 years and 3 kids and life doesn’t look like what I planned or dreamed 14 years ago. It is much better than I could have put together, because the One who knows us best put it all together. He is still fitting the pieces in place, but I am so grateful I can rest in knowing that He loves me, He is for me and my husband and my marriage and my family.

Happy 14 years, Matt. The best is yet to come. I know it is. ❤️ I love you.

Joy in the Sorrow

Chronic illness, miscarriage, death, cancer, infertility, broken families, addiction. This earthly life is full of suffering, and this book is a soothing balm for a hurting soul. I don’t know that I really had a theology of suffering until I was forced to acknowledge its existence in my own life. As I read through each story in Joy in the Sorrow: How a Thriving Church (and Its Pastor) Learned to Suffer Well, each life marked by struggles and grief, I thought of so many lives that touch mine who are are experiencing these sorrows. Some are learning more about the goodness of God in what we would deem “not good” circumstances. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from this deeply beautiful book.

“We think God waits for us on the other side of hard things, and we’re always looking for and celebrating the happy ending in this life. The stories we tell are usually finished stories. They have a bow on them. It’s a rare thing for us to tell the story, right in the middle of doubt and anger and fear and confusion.” {Joy in the Sorrow, page 22, Matt Chandler}

“When he writes pain into our stories, He also reveals himself as the main character. Sure, he’s been there all along in our joys and delights, but suffering is unique in its power to tune our souls to His presence.” {Joy in the Sorrow, page 34, Jeanne Damoff}

“We have tremendous friends, enjoy our work, and delight in our children. And yet, the most profound encounter we have ever had with the Lord came as a result of suffering. The thing I was desperate to escape was also my gateway to irrefutable joy.” {Joy in the Sorrow, page 82, Kyle Porter}

“Could God still be good and therefore do good by withholding one blessing (children) and in its place giving another, stranger and unsought, blessing (childlessness)?…The nearness of children or the promise of them were not my good. The nearness of God was my only good, and I was learning that however his nearness comes – in silence, in greatness, in provision, in lack, in fullness, or in meagerness – it is enough.” {Joy in the Sorrow, page 197, Lore Ferguson Wilbert}

I highly recommend this book and will be referring to it often. Let me know if you read it. I love book discussions!

He First Loved Us

I hated Valentine’s Day when I was single. Seriously hated it. I still don’t like it that much. I think the world puts expectations on it, and I prefer to celebrate birthdays and annniversaries which are all pretty close to Valentine’s Day.

This morning when I woke up, I had a verse in my mind.

“We love because he first loved us. ” I John 4:19 ESV

If you follow Jesus, you don’t love because he/she sends you flowers and a card. You don’t wait to love until you see what they got for you. You love because HE loves. His love came first and always will. And if you don’t expect a Valentine today or wish you had someone with whom to celebrate, you can still choose to love others out of the overflow of His love for you. Focus on the one who loves you more than any human ever has or ever could or ever will. Receive His love and you will always have love to give others no matter what day it is on the calendar.

Bought and Paid For

A few weeks ago, our pastor preached a great message in a series on generosity. He read from a passage in Exodus, and I spent some time pondering its meaning.

“When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, you shall set apart to the Lord all the first that opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the Lord’s. Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.” {Exodus 13:11-13 ESV}

He continued by explaining that the donkey was unclean, and it must be redeemed by a lamb, which was considered clean. The unclean was redeemed by the clean. I was somewhat dumbfounded as this thought rolled around in my head. Why would you take something clean, unblemished, in good condition and kill it to redeem the thing that is unclean, dirty, worthless? This is backwards. It doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t make sense to our human thought process. But the unclean thing is not worthy to pay the price that is owed. The price must be paid by an unblemished, worthy sacrifice. It is no sacrifice to kill the unworthy animal. It is a true sacrifice to take the one who has value and worth and sacrifice it to God.

So it is with our Savior. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. His perfect, sinless, beautiful life was sacrificed to redeem our sinful, unworthy souls. We certainly don’t deserve it. We could never earn it. We will never be able to repay it. He knew all those things, yet He willingly gave His life away.

I don’t think about this enough, the unbelievable price He paid to buy eternal life for my wretched soul. It is a staggeringly beautiful reminder that I owe Him everything.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” {Romans 5:6-8 ESV}

Beauty in All Seasons

Beauty. We fight desperately to keep it. We seek it out. I stared up at this tree in front of our house a couple weeks ago. I swear it gets prettier every year. The leaves were so red, and the sky was so blue.

Even as I took in its beauty, I realized that it would last for mere days and then be bare and colorless. Beauty fades all too quickly. My mom’s favorite flower is the lilac. She had huge bushes of them in our backyard growing up. Lilacs are in bloom for about two weeks, and I always wish it lasted so much longer.

I wonder if God made seasons in nature to parallel the seasons in our lives. Nature isn’t always bright and stunning, sometimes it is cold and brown. What would happen if no winter existed? Could crops grow all year long? When would the land rest? The dormant seasons are not pretty from the outside, but the work God does in our hearts when things are cold and bleak is essential. It shapes and forms our character, who we are when no one is looking. And when the beauty returns, it stuns us in a way we could not see before. The deep gratitude and appreciation for the beauty would not be there without the dark, cold days where the deep work is done.

I have never been good at appreciating the dark night of the soul when it is present, but as I get older, I have seen the amazing work that God does when no one is looking. There is nothing flashy or beautiful about it, but it is necessary to bring about the beauty that is to come. I am not thrilled about the seemingly early arrival of winter this year. But I trust God that He can bring me through the winter no matter how long it lasts. He will see you through as well.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:18‬ ‭

Black Raspberry Vanilla and Maggie May

I love this black raspberry vanilla shower gel. It reminds me of fall 2004 when my friend Maggie moved to Waverly to intern at our church. We packed so much into the few months that she lived here. We were two single girls in ministry, having the best time together for that season.

For Pastor Appreciation month, a wonderful family from our church gave me a free night at their amazing bed and breakfast. I took Maggie with me, and we watched movies and did puzzles all night. We road tripped to a conference, we watched election results while doing puzzles and eating Rolos. We did Weight Watchers together, riding on the bike trail to earn points for our dinner. She sang “Breath of Heaven” and I did a human video for it. I’ll never forget that or her incredible voice.

Every time I see this shower gel that Maggie and I both loved that reminds me of her amazing life. I have written about her in the past. Maggie was one of those people who was so joyful, so full of life, and everyone loved her. After she left Waverly, she was diagnosed with breast cancer a year or two later, and she went to be with Jesus in 2012.

The fact that God decided to take her home but left me here baffles me sometimes. I don’t expect to understand God’s ways. I do know that remembering my friend is a regular reminder that I only have one shot at this life, one chance to live a life that will make a difference in eternity. Maggie did that so beautifully. I am so inspired by her joy no matter what circumstances she faced.

I can’t wait to laugh with her in heaven and see her beautiful smile. Until then, the changing leaves and Black Raspberry Vanilla shower gel and so many more things will remind me of my incredible friend and how short our time is on this earth, but how amazingly beautiful it can be.

Firm Foundation

I haven’t cried all my eye makeup off in months, so I guess I was due. It still took me by surprise. A good cry can be really healing, and other times it is accompanied by pain and despair that linger on long after the tears have dried from my face.

I tend to dive into a soothing worship song when I need God’s presence, and my favorite line from today’s song is, “Jesus, Your presence is the comfort of my soul.”

I love things that are black and white, right or wrong, good or bad. I love the clarity, I want answers and facts when I come up against a problem. Unfortunately, I have learned repeatedly in the past ten years that many problems are cloudy and unclear. When my oldest was a toddler, I picked up book after book searching for help, looking for answers to figure her out and find out what I could do to be the mom she needed. She didn’t (and doesn’t) fit easily into a box. And I struggle with that more than I wish I did.

One thing has become clear in the past decade of my life, though. God stripped away many, many things in my life that had given me a false sense of security. I have come to realize that He wasn’t trying to hurt me. He wanted to help me see that I was building on an insecure foundation. When the storm rages, that foundation crumbles and everything falls apart. But if I rebuild on Jesus, the only sure foundation, I will have all I need for the next storm.

And for some reason, they keep coming. Life doesn’t let up in some seasons. Maybe it’s months, it could be years. God has shown in His Word that time is not a consideration when He is molding and shaping His people to do His work.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭73:25‬-26 ESV

I might not “feel” much better after a good cry, but I know the One on whom I stand is holding me through it all. Here are some of the beautiful lyrics from the song in my heart and mind right now.

Beneath the surface
Of my anxious imagination
Beckons a calmness
That is found in You alone
It washes over
Every doubt, every imperfection
Jesus, Your presence
Is the comfort of my soul
There’s nowhere I’d rather be
When You’re singing over me
I just wanna be here with You
I’m lost in Your mystery
I’m found in Your love for me
I just wanna be here with You