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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My favorite part of the day...

... looks a little like this.

My sweet husband has been working so late recently, and as soon as I hear his key in the door, I bolt towards him and hug/attack him. I have to tilt my head all the way back to see him smiling with his eyes closed. I love that.

I just love being married to this man. For those of you who were at our wedding and heard our vows, they were beautiful in the moment, but so much more beautiful now that they are being lived out. Every one of them.

Come home soon, sweetie. I love you.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Potter God.

I'm currently taking a pottery class and this week our objective was wheel throwing. I couldn't wait. All the newbies circled around our instructor for a demonstration, eager to work on our own wet balls of clay. He went through the entire process - from lump of clay to perfectly even, jaw-dropping perfection in a pot - in what must of been less than 5 minutes.

Then it was our turn.

I confidently sat down at my wheel, aligned my elbows and shoulders as I'd been taught, slapped my rounded lump of clay onto the center of the wheel, and pressed the pedal to start the wheel.

I had formed something that looked like a cross between a pot and an asteroid when all of a sudden, the entire top flew off the wheel and onto the floor while the bottom was left spinning on the wheel!

I immediately looked up, hoping my instructor had missed the action. He was standing right there. He came straight over, sat down, and said very seriously, "I don't think you're respecting the clay."

Say
what?! Excuse me, Mr. Clay Activist, I didn't mean to hurt the clay's feelings. (Haha I hope he never reads this... he's really a nice guy.) :) He proceeded to explain more about the origins of clay, about "pot culture" (nope, not drugs - pots... I never knew such a thing existed) and actually printed off an article written in 1978 that he hoped would instill more "respect" for making pots. Odd.

All that to say, after his pep talk, I was more careful and my pots began to improve! Mistakes really are the best educators. I even made a bowl and a bud vase. Maybe once they're fired, glazed, and fired again I'll post pictures.

Maybe it seems silly, but I felt that my two hours alone on the wheel allowed me to be still enough for God to speak. He spoke about me, the clay, and about Himself, the Potter God. Little did I know the lessons He sweetly whispered would be so needed this week.

Beginning last Friday, this past week was the most difficult week I've had for a very long time. On Friday, I babysat in a hotel room for 16 consecutive hours (which I do not recommend) and on top of it, got what I thought was food poisoning. My sweet Shawn picked me up and had Gatorade waiting. He tended me to me literally all night long and through to Valentine's Day morning (I'll spare details, but let's just say there was lots of throwing up). Little did I know that I actually had a virus which I so generously gave to my poor husband. Happy Valentine's Day, sweetie! (I felt terrible for him.)

So on top of that, we've been unsure of finances as Shawn has been in unpaid training and I've been on a teacher's salary. Had our Potter God not been paying attention? It felt as if He had let us fall off the wheel and onto the floor even though we knew in our hearts that was impossible.

I saw myself as that lump of clay: formless, messy, and ugly without the skilled hands of the Potter to make me into something exquisite. Looking around the art center, it was quite amazing to see the before and after. Before: a ball of wet dirt. Then scouring scores of shelves, I saw masterpieces: a vase with intricate lattice, a life-size trout, a coffee mug glazed with vibrant paints. Each of these started out as the same thing - a wet piece of mud - but in the hands of someone who cared deeply and patiently poured his heart into it, it became something. It came alive.

But the part that really hit me while I worked with the clay was the part called "wedging." Before you're ever able to form the clay, you must forcefully knead the air bubbles out, slamming it onto the table then putting your full weight on it over and over. If the clay really did feel anything, this would be a painful process. But it is necessary for the clay to be useful. If the air isn't wedged out, the piece is unprepared for the fire - it literally explodes in the kiln. Seeing any parallels?

Psalm 34 has been near to our hearts in these last few weeks and I've decided to memorize it and claim it for our family this year. Friday was particularly hard for both of us and as we were just feeling hopeless, we held onto this verse:

"Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing."

We felt like we were lacking a lot of things and we also felt we were fearing Him, or trusting Him, as much as we possibly could. So on Friday afternoon, Shawn and I sat down and prayed once again and asked God for a miracle.

Potter God, we don't know what You're forming us into but it hurts.
Potter God, we trust You. We want what You want.
Potter God, we need You.

We said a tearful goodbye as Shawn headed out the door and I packed up to go to Nashville for the weekend. He called me five minutes later.

"You're not going to believe this."

"What? Another parking ticket?" I asked (in all seriousness).

"No, almost $1,000 in our mailbox today."

Our God had come through. Miraculously. This is not to say that He is finished molding us. In fact, it's just the opposite. Our baby marriage has gone through the "wedging" this week because without this part - without learning to trust our Father through the most difficult circumstances - we wouldn't be usable. Praise Him in the trials. Praise Him when He provides sweet relief. Praise Him that He uses His own hands to mold us for His purposes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tasting life twice.

Welcome to my first little blog.

I have been thinking of creating a blog for a while now, hoping to chronicle our first days and weeks and months as married people. To journal through this season of our lives is especially important to me. Perhaps years down the road our grandchildren will flip through pages of posts and marvel at the faithfulness of our God. That's what this is really about.

I also love to write and haven't done nearly enough of it lately. One quote by novelist Anais Nin sums up
what I believe blogging to be about:

"We write to
taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection."

That said, let's start at the beginning - our legal beginning :) - our wedding day.

We got married on December 27, 2008 - the 28th wedding anniversary of my parents. It was the most sacred, passionate, undeserved day of my life. Just thinking about walking down the aisle to "Holy Spirit, Rain Down" and looking through tears at my precious groom still takes my breath away.

After our honeymoon cruise in the Caribbean, we returned to freezing Chicago and Shawn moved into our apartment where I had been living. Going to Bible school downtown for the past few years had spoiled us, and we knew that if we were to live anywhere in the Chicagoland area, it had to be downtown. God so generously provided this sweet urban nest for us to begin our married life. [If you're
reading this, we love having people over. Please come.] We have enjoyed making it our own and filling it with our art and photography, craigslist purchases, and more wedding gifts than we know what to do with. Most of all, I can't begin to describe the privilege it is to wake up to my best friend in our own place, hearing the bustle of the city we love, watching the snow fall. It is magical.

At the same time, this recent journey has often felt like an uphill battle when it comes to trusting God as our Provider. We tend to question why it was that just as we graduate college, get married, and are looking for jobs, the economy is at its worst in so many years. But each week that we've had to pay bills, buy groceries, or pay off parking tickets (oops), the money has been there. Miraculously.

And we even have jobs! I am fortunate to work in an inner city kindergarten classroom where I am beginning to feel that my gifts are truly being used. I am being stretched to love these kids more and more each day. Shawn just landed a fabulous insurance job where the training has been so intense, but it's about to pay off. I am so proud of him. We don't know how long we'll be in Chicago, but are grateful to be in the heart of the city and pray for opportunities to be salt and light.

Since moving here, I must make mention of my favorite new neighbor: "Pops."

Pops spends several days a week in his wheelchair just outside our bedroom window. He greets passersby with his rattling plastic cup of change and offers them a gummy smile.

One morning as I was getting ready for church, I noticed a homeless looking man outside the window and, having never met him, felt prompted to bring him some muffins. I called Shawn and had him meet me at the apartment (we weren't married yet, so I was living here alone), and we gathered an assortment of baked goods to bring to our "neighbor." We headed outside on this particularly frigid day, bag of muffins in hand, and introduced ourselves.

"People call me Pops," he told us. We assumed he was homeless, but in fact, Pops lives in a state-run nursing home several miles away and is dropped off by his sister a few days a week in order to panhandle for some extra cash. We learned that he was born in Tennessee, too, and served in Viet Nam for 9 years where he lost his leg. He’s been a Chicagoan for the last 40 years.

Pops has certainly come into my life at just the right time. As Shawn and I are literally watching the Lord’s provision day after day, I see him outside and my heart just breaks. Who am I to complain about my circumstances when I could easily be in his predicament, sitting out in the Chicago wind, hoping for a few benevolent strangers to spare some change. I have so much to be thankful for.

The other night a friend and I were going out for dinner just across the street and as I was getting ready to go, noticed Pops outside. I just happened to have more muffins (which we usually do... I live with an all-the-time eater) so I grabbed another bag. For the first time, he recognized me when I came! I felt a certain joy about that. His eyes lit up when he saw another bag of muffins and when I asked him how his day was, his head hung low and he replied, “Not good.” But quickly, he added, “But God woke me up again this morning, so why am I complainin’?” He then offered to pray for me anytime, and I said I’d do the same for him.

Pops – my brother in Christ. I had a feeling from the beginning he must know Jesus because of his amazing attitude despite despicable conditions.

Even with an Urban Ministry degree, I have yet to work out my own theology of the poor. But I think I figured something out tonight. Perhaps God has placed Pops on that corner so that others may know the Father he serves. Callous hearts may pass him by, but some may stop and hear of the God who has taken care of Pops every day of his life and has given him the gift of joy. God knew I needed Pops as a reminder to be thankful.

So to wrap this up, what is our future looking like at this point? Hopeful. As for logistics, we have no idea. We dream of working internationally on the mission field at some point, but right now, are given this city to love on.

And most of all, we are daily convicted and convinced of this:

His mercies are new every morning.
Great is His faithfulness.







To hear a sermon we found profoundly encouraging, go here.