Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Path of Loneliness

"To know God, or even to begin to know Him, is to know that we are not alone in the universe. Someone Else is Out There. There is a hint that there may be a refuge for our loneliness. To stop our frantic getting, spending, and searching, and simply to look at the things God has made is to move one step away from despair. For God cares. The most awesome seascape can reveal a care which is actually tender."

"We are not doomed to meaninglessness. A loving Purpose is behind it all, a great tenderness even in the fierceness."

"That is where faith begins - in the wilderness, when you are alone and afraid, when things don't make sense…"

"Suffering is a wilderness experience. We feel very much alone and helpless, cut off from others who cannot know how we suffer. We long for someone to come to our aid, be "company" for us, get us out of this.
     Someone will. Some one will certainly come to our aid. He will be company for us if we'll let Him. But get us out of? Not necessarily. It is one of the terms of being human (which means that although we cannot do anything about it, there is something very important that we can do with it.)"

"In the wilderness of loneliness we are terribly vulnerable. What we want is OUT, and sometimes there appear to be some easy ways to get there. Will we take Satan up on his offers, satisfy our desires in ways never designed by God, seek security outside of His holy will? If we do, we may find a measure of happiness, but not the lasting joy our heavenly Father wants us to have. We will "gain the world," but we'll lose our souls. Jesus knew that His joy lay in only one direction: the will of the Father. And so does ours."

"We may be earnestly desiring to be obedient and holy. But we may be missing the fact that it is here, where we happen to be at this moment and not in another place or another time, that we may learn to love Him - here where it seems He is not at work, where His will seems obscure or frightening, where He is not doing what we expected Him to do, where He is most absent. Here and nowhere else is the appointed place. If faith does not go to work here, it will not go to work at all."

'The power of the Cross is not exemption from suffering but the very transformation of suffering."

"With what misgivings we turn over our lives to God, imagining somehow that we are about to lose everything that matters. Our hesitancy is like that of a tiny shell on the seashore, afraid to give up the teaspoonful of water it holds lest there not be enough in the ocean to fill it again. Lose your life, said Jesus, and you will find it. Give up, and I will give you all. Can the shell imagine the depth and plenitude of the ocean? Can you and I fathom the riches, the fullness, of God's love?"

"One step at a time over the years, as I sought to plumb the mystery of suffering (which cannot be plumbed), I began to see that there is a sense in which everything is a gift."

"I had prayed as earnestly as a child and a teenager and a woman can pray, Thy will be done. The coming of this transcendent authority into one's life is bound to be an active thing, an immense disruption at times."

"He does not whisk us at once to Glory. We go on living in a fractured world, suffering in one way or another the effects of sin - sometimes our own, sometimes others'. Yet I have come to understand even suffering, through the transforming power of the Cross, as a gift, for in this broken world, in our sorrow, He gives us Himself; in our loneliness He comes to meet us, as in George Matheson's He came as the Love that would never let him go."

"The Love that calls us into being, woos us to Himself, makes us His bride, lays down His life for us, and daily crowns us with lovingkindness and tender mercy, will not, no matter how it may appear in our loneliness, abandon us."

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Spring time & Nephews

I rarely get my "big camera" out these days, but today was a beautiful Saturday and I knew I needed to capture the boys in this stage of life. They are so much fun and pure joy to be around. 

We fulfilled a long-time dream and hung up lights all around the patio! It's completely magical at night!

Gideon is the fattest, jolliest baby. He is content just to be held, and whenever he makes eye contact with someone, he gives him or her a big grin. 
Michael's vocabulary is incredible and he is constantly saying something adorable. Some of his cute phrases lately have been, "It's not so bad!", "You'll be alright!", "I had a good time!", as well as saying the first few catechism questions, singing hymns, and being unable to pronounce our names. He calls me "HeeMeel." My favorite thing to ever be called. ;)

"I run down the hill fast!"

Saturday, May 6, 2017

"Confirm Your Identity"

     Those words stared back at me a few minutes after I had deactivated my Twitter account for the second time. 

     That's ironic, I thought. How swept up in social media we get, to the point of putting as much effort into our online personas as we do our real-life ones, to the point of almost letting it reign supreme in our thoughts. I don't have a following on social media nor do I post every little thing that happens, but I'm one of (probably) thousands who refreshes Instagram too many times a day and believes the lie that Twitter and Facebook actually have even a sliver of eternal value. 

     They. Don't. They don't. THEY DON'T. It goes without saying that they are idols in my life. Recently I've realized that interaction with people, and even a few people themselves, have become idols to me. Actually, they've been idols for a while and I'm just now realizing it. It's been a long year and a half of being hurt and let down by people, but who had the high expectations in our relationships? It was me, and those expectations were not healthy or right. 

     Loneliness has been a big part of my life in the last year and half, as a result of my self-caused disappointment. I have been lonely and sad as relationships that meant so much to me dwindled away and became less important to others. And while loving people and investing in them is good and right, that is not where our value lies. It's not. 

     When you put so much work and heart into a friendship, you hope and assume that those on the receiving end will do the same. That's where the trouble comes in. As soon as being a friend becomes about what I can get from it, I'm looking at it all wrong. 

     Does that mean that I should treat people well but just expect them to never care about me? Well, no. But it means that I'll be okay if they don't, because my joy and fulfillment is in God, not in feelings of being needed, wanted, or appreciated. 

     It's been so, so hard to live each day like I believe that. Deep in my heart I know it, but it's hard work and lots of prayers to get it to penetrate a hurting heart and fill it with actual hope. 

     And here's the hard truth: we can invest in and love and adore people, but they will not always invest in and love and adore us back. We will sacrifice for people and they will not always sacrifice back. We will pray our hearts out for people and they might not pray their hearts out for us. 

     And that is perfectly okay. If I'm praying for, investing in, and loving people for the purpose of having reciprocal feelings, then I'm doing it for the wrong reason. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us, the ultimate display of love, and still he was despised and rejected by men. He laid down his life, and did everyone react with gratefulness and adoration? No. His crucifixion was colored by a posture of humble obedience to His Father and genuine, pure love. So should my every action be. 

     I'm not very good at this yet. I would still really love it if people cared as much as I did. But I know that I am not entitled to it, nor do I deserve it. I have the greatest friendship in the world with Jesus, and that should be my priority. As I spend more and more time with Him, I'll ask for grace to love people well with the purest of intentions, and ask for nothing in return but to glorify God in my actions, my words, and my heart towards His children. 

     My identity is NOT in the friendships I have. It's not in what kind of friend I am. It's not in what kind of friends others are to me. It's not in my persona. It's certainly not in an app that has absolutely no long-lasting value. My identity is in God and God alone. I pray for the ability to lay all of these things down. I pray for grace to hold them with a loose grasp and instead hold on tightly to Jesus and His word.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

God is good

     God is good. It's the thought I keep coming back to. I think about what's stressing me out and who's bumming me out and then I remember that my life is a good one because God is good. Period, end of story. I've noticed lately that a lot of the time, whether it's intentional or not, we make our lives and the situations in them seem worse than they really are. If we are dealing with THREE stressful things instead of just one or two, we blow everything out of proportion and throw the adult equivalent of a toddler-tantrum.

     As the years go by, I realize more and more that God actually doesn't owe us anything. He doesn't owe us friends, He doesn't owe us money, He doesn't owe us a pretty life, and yet we have the audacity to be upset and ungrateful when we don't get whatever we were never promised or entitled to in the first place.

     Life may not always be "good" by whatever standard we incorrectly judge it by, but it is beyond good if we walk closely with God, love Him, fear Him, and serve Him joyfully and wholeheartedly. It is such a privilege to be chosen by Him, to do His work, and to live in the light of His promises and assurance of His love for us.

     This isn't a very deep or lengthy thought, but it's the one that keeps coming to mind these days and the truth of it fills me with peace and hope on a lot of days that would otherwise be discouraging.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy

Some highlights/favorite memories from the last several months. Some big moments and also lots of nephew photos, because let's be honest, they're one of the very best parts of life. And there's TWO of them now. My hearttt.

We toured the governor's mansion in December. Not actually as big as I thought it'd be, but still beautiful!

Caroline had recently gotten her braces off and was also celebrating her golden birthday.  I just love her.

At the beginning of December, our quartet had our first Christmas concert! 
Traditional Christmas Eve brunch at Nana and Grandbud's house. Nana is, without a doubt, one of my biggest role models and favorite people. 
Christmas Day heavy hors d'oeuvres and WEDDING PHOTOS VIEWING PARTY with family and might-as-well-be-family
The beginning of January held a 12 Days of Christmas Costume ball.  So fun.

A fellow princess and the hostess of the night!
A most convincing hobbit
The Queen made an appearance.
January also found our quartet playing at a 30 course dinner for the CPC's annual summit meeting. It was a privilege to play and a special night.

Michael stayed with us for a few nights while his parents were at the hospital waiting on nephew #2! He and "GrandBurt" have the cutest relationship.

It was as if he sensed that a little brother was on the way, because he couldn't get to sleep that night. Or maybe he just realized that we're suckers for his cuteness and wanted to stay up for a movie and cuddles. Ha.
Gideon Lewis was born on January 19th. He was (is) the sweetest and most precious baby.

My nephews are honestly two of the greatest parts of life. They bring so much joy.

There's nothing better than a nephew burrito. !!
Sleepovers with M are the best. He is so stinking adorable and also HILARIOUS.

Our quartet played for a Valentine's Day couples dinner! 
First time on the Nashville symphony stage. I'm a fan of the view.
A friend and I hosted a Galentine's Day party. Still dreaming of the food.
I love puns. And I feel like puns and Valentine's Day just go together.

A few hours after the party, a brushfire started up the road and quickly spread. There was some panicking going on. It was scary, to say the least. Thankfully God spared our house and most of our property.

So many people showed up so quickly. That community life, tho.

What a little gentleman.
Oh guysss
Rainy Monday morning activities 
Caroline made the most incredible loaf of challah bread. It tasted as good as it looked, too! #P31

Dee came in March! It was a short visit but wonderful as always.
She snapped a few photos that I will always cherish.

Family dinner to celebrate Dad's birthday! Also, Gideon is SO SWEET, Y'ALL.

Another quartet gig! 
We celebrated the 10th anniversary of founding our church on March 12th. The night before, the original families got together to enjoy a meal and share memories. We've been through so much together and thinking about how much has changed in that time is amazing and surreal. Eight of the original kids are now married, and there's six grandchildren! God has been so kind to bless us with the best friends in the world.

Saturday night Upwords with Granddaddy is becoming a tradition.
Last week we had the incredible opportunity to record in Wightman Chapel at The Scarritt Bennet Center in Nashville. Both the campus and acoustics were some of the best, and it was an all-around amazing experience.

We enjoyed hearing The Tallis Scholars in concert earlier this week.

Spring has officially sprung and I am more than thrilled. Spring is a hopeful time for me. These weeks of sunshine, breezes, first sunburns, and sunsets are signs that I've survived another winter and have months of warm, long days to look forward to. 
Surely goodness, surely mercy,
Right beside me all my days,
And I will dwell in Your house forever
And bless Your holy name

-Psalm 23 (Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy) has been my song on repeat.