Grace for others

A week ago, we had an exciting announcement at my other writing place on the web…Young Ladies Christian Fellowship has a new name, one that speaks of what we hope our posts have and will continue to communicate.  Kindred Grace.  Our “About” page sums the new site up well:

“Kindred Grace is a community of women who are dedicated to fellowship through words, in order to glorify God and encourage each other. Our desire is to provide a grace-filled space for conversations between sisters in Christ.”

I’m writing over at Kindred Grace today about something that I think greatly saddens the heart of God.

“It’s a scenario I’ve witnessed too many times.

Christian A does something that Christian B doesn’t agree with. What Christian A did wasn’t sinful, but it’s something that Christian B has been convicted differently about. Christian B confronts Christian A about “being in sin” and things go downhill from there. Best case scenario: they agree to disagree, but there is still an underlying tension. However, all too often, there will be hard feelings and the relationship ends up disintegrating.”

Read more of “What is that to you?”.

 

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A letter to myself of ten years ago

Dear Me,

Oh, sweet sixteen.  I see you there, all aglitter at finally feeling grown-up and secretly delighted that you’re actually to the age where you can sing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” and supposedly mean it.  Except in your mind, there needs to be a dashing young man there to sing it with…and there’s definitely no one like that in sight.  You think he’ll probably show up sometime soon, because you really want to get married, and think it should happen by the time you’re eighteen.  Oh me, you’ve got much to learn…

These next years will be hard.  Despite loving ballet so much and enjoying the bits of musical theatre you have a chance to do, you and I both know that more than anything, you just want to be married.  No more “ambitions” than to be a wife and mother, and you’re not really sure what you’ll do after you graduate high school in a few short years…thus the married-by-eighteen plan seems to be perfect.  Well, dear one, you won’t be married by eighteen.  Or nineteen.  Or even twenty.  You won’t say “I do” until a month before your 23rd birthday (you’ll actually only be a day older than the age your mom was when she got married!), and though most of your peers won’t understand why, those years between sixteen and then will sometimes seem to drag on and on.

They won’t drag on for lack of things to do though.  After you graduate, you’ll travel the world (literally!) and it will change you so much.  I’m excited for you!  So many of those fears that you’ve struggled with in the last years, the Father will gently bring to light and will continually be working in your heart.   You’ll discover the details as you walk along this journey, but the main lessons seem to be trust and grace. They’ll show up again and again and again, and you’ll still be learning them all the more ten years from now.

You especially need to learn to trust the Father with this desire to be married.  Believe me, I know just how hard it is for you…but if you learn now to rest in His timing and trust that He’ll bring you two together in His perfect time, it will save you a lot of tears and grief over the next years.  I know you’re starting to despair (and will do so even more in the coming years) that there are no “real men” you know that you would even consider marrying.  No young men who are serious about wanting to be married and no young men who are strong enough to pursue you.  Oh, but dear one…just you wait.  When it’s time, he’ll want to be married just as much as you do and he’ll pursue you around the world and across oceans.  And you’ll be utterly blown away by our Father’s goodness.

And while we’re on the subject of young men…you know all those courtship books you love to read?  Just stop.  As you’ll see in about six years, real life is nothing like the courtship books.   You and I both know well the tendencies of having a rather extreme personality and over the next years, what you read in all those books will cause you to subconsciously build a little box of what a proper, Godly relationship should look like.  And let me tell you right now…God is going to totally explode that little box.  From beginning a “courtship” after communicating online for two weeks with a man you had never heard of before, to starting to fall in love with this man before you’ve even met him in person.  From across-the-Pacific plane rides, and hundreds of chats and emails, to finally marrying each other seven months and two days after first even hearing of each other’s existence.  It’s going to be a wild and crazy ride, and it’s not going to be like anything you’ve ever imagined.  But dear one, don’t let that keep you from one of the most amazing gifts your Father has ever given you.  His hand will be so apparent through it all, so just stay under His mercy and He will lead you both.

And as a little aside to the whole courtship thing — just stop writing your “list” of things you want in a husband.  You can keep the first one (“a strong believer”), but anything after that, especially #2 (“taller than me”), just toss out the window.  I’m serious.  Because I’m going to let you in on a little secret…your incredibly good-looking future husband is shorter than you.  By at least two whole inches.  And you know what?  It doesn’t matter.  Because there’s so many other amazing things about him that a couple inches is hardly worth even thinking about.

Well, sixteen-year-old me, I know how much you love reading, but this letter is getting quite long and I need still get some stuff done while the littles nap (yes, your children are more beautiful than you ever dreamed), but I wanted to quickly touch on the grace I mentioned earlier that our Father will keep teaching you.

You don’t really see it now, but that legalism that Dad and Mom warn you about having tendencies toward?  Well, they’re right (and over the next ten years, you’ll see they’re right about a lot of other things too).  Our extreme personality so loves rules and doing things all the way, but dear one, that will become a bondage for you.  But the amazing thing about our God — He sets the captives free.  And over the next years, you’ll be set free from that and slowly, slowly, learn to walk in grace.  It’s going to be hard, and believe me, you’ll stumble and fall…but again, there’s grace.  So keep clinging to that, dear one, and know that in ten years, you’ll still be learning and you’ll feel like you aren’t any closer to being like Jesus than before.  But that’s when we need to keep remembering that Scripture from the beginning of Philippians that you have memorized and underlined.  That “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day the day of Jesus Christ”.

And He will.  Because if there’s anything I’ve learned in these last ten years, it’s that the goodness of our Father surpasses anything we could ever imagine and that we can trust Him with it all.

So just keep your eyes on Jesus, me-at-sixteen.  And that will be enough.

~Jessica

(The blogosphere is full of letters to our teenage selves this week, in celebration of Emily Freeman’s new book Graceful. Care to join us? What would you like to be able to tell your teenage self?)

Finally.

Well, it’s been over a month since my last post and we’ve been in Tennessee for almost four weeks now…I think it’s time to get back to blogging.  I honestly was rather unmotivated to start up again, but I have all these post ideas floating around in my head.  Who knows if they’ll ever get from my head to my blog, but one can hope!

Tennessee has definitely been a change from California — in some good ways, and some bad.  I’m absolutely loving all the green here, though sometimes the trees end up obscuring the horizon…I didn’t realize how much I would miss seeing that.  And I’m discovering that all this green has a price: I made my first acquaintance with chiggers a couple days ago.  The kids and I went blueberry picking with some friends and a couple hours after we returned home, I discovered a large red  itchy ring of bites around both of my calves, right where my capri-ed jeans had ended and my bare legs began.  The bites really are as bad as they say, but thankfully a couple applications of this amazing homemade calamine lotion and regular slathering on of our trusty Miracle Salve has helped a lot.  I’m just incredibly thankful that the chiggers didn’t get the kids (I was wearing Genoa and Cedar had long pants and gum boots on) — I can deal with crazy itchy bites on me, but it would have been really hard on them.

The food culture and situation here in east TN definitely is very different than CA as well.  I miss all the amazing fresh produce we had available almost year round, but here I’ve also been able to find a good source for raw milk…and they deliver only about five minutes away.   And we’re so excited…in about a week, there’s a Trader Joe’s opening up relatively close by…YAY!

So lots of changes to be sure, but we’re slowly adjusting.  And regardless of the hard parts, it’s been confirmed to Aaron and I several times that this definitely is the new path God has for our family.  Being just our little family, in a totally new place, hardly knowing anyone — it certainly has grown us and will continue to, I’m sure.  It’s always exciting to see what our great God has in store.

Path

Five Minute Friday: Path

(Things have been so crazy busy here lately that I haven’t done a Five Minute Friday for a month and a half…wow!  And today continued the crazy busy trend so I wasn’t sure if I would miss yet another Friday, but this word is actually fits perfectly with all that’s happening our life right now.)

GO

It’s funny the different twists and turns there are in the path of our life.  And so often the changes are so out of the blue and beyond your expectations that you realize anew that you really have no idea what’s around the next “bend in the road”.  And that’s when I learn to rest again in the knowledge that I’m in the care of Someone Who does know, and He is good.

Our life right now is taking a rather drastic turn.  We’re moving to Tennessee.  In less than a month.  Thus the reason behind all the busyness and general upheaval around here lately.  Sorting and purging, packing and boxing.  Aaron and I definitely tend toward minimalism (except when it comes to books), but there’s always stuff you can get rid and so we’re having our first garage sale tomorrow.

This move is an exciting one and such an answer to so many prayers.  Aaron was offered a great job opportunity to be the project manager for a finish carpentry company — a job that’s basically perfect for him since he’s great at organization and efficiency and it will allow him to focus on refining his finish carpentry skills.  The latter is something he’s really wanted to do for a long time, but hasn’t been able to in the dwindling construction market here in our corner of California.

So lots of changes for us in the next months…and we’ll see how much time they leave for blogging!  We’re excited to see where God is going to take us down this path.

STOP (and…I went over time!  I thought that might happen, but I had to get it all out!)

Graham Gardens’ winner and more fun giveaway stuff

Thanks to help from random.org, today I “drew” the winning number for the Graham Gardens’ BabyBird basket giveaway, and it was comment #23 from Carina!  Congratulations, Carina…enjoy your prize!

In the giveaway answers, the BugBar definitely got the most I-want-to-try-this mentions.  So for anyone wondering…it really does work!  We have one and while we have yet to try it in super-buggy conditions (just because we don’t normally get those here), it has worked very well in the general “we want to go outside, but the mosquitoes are out” conditions.  Aaron isn’t a huge fan of the smell (kind of a mix of peppermint and citronella), but as he admitted, most bug repellents don’t smell that great anyway!  And I love that it’s in bar form — so many bug repellents, natural or not, are in liquid form and are such a pain to apply to little ones.  But this goes on so easily!

In more giveaway news, I’m going to give you the insider scoop on something happening at YLCF next week!   On Tuesday, May 15th, we’re going to be hosting a giveaway for an amazing children’s CD called Rain For Roots: Big Stories for Little Ones.  I had the great privilege of being the reviewer and getting a pre-release copy, and let me tell you, it’s incredible!  The full album won’t be available until May 15th, but until then, you can download a FREE four-song preview.  It’s great music, even if you don’t have little ones, but hurry, since the free preview only lasts until the evening of May 14th.

In which there is no formula for marriage

The other day, my husband did the sweetest thing for me.  Recognizing how much I hate clothes shopping, and that I rarely have time for it as it is, and yet knowing that I needed some new summer shirts, he stopped by Target and picked out five new shirts for me (along with a couple more…romantic items).  I loved all but one of the shirts (it was a cute style, but the colour didn’t work with my skin tone), which is even better odds than when I pick out clothes for myself!   And I know for sure that he likes them — a major bonus in my book.  I was amazed with what a great guy I had…

But I know that a lot of women would not have thought that was very sweet.  They may want to always pick out their own clothes, or would enjoy the opportunity to go shopping themselves.  And that’s totally fine.  Each person is different and therefore the ways that each couple shows their love to each other are different too.

Just recently I saw the Facebook status update of one of my husband’s friends.  He was talking about something nice his wife did for him and ended it with declaring he was “the luckiest man in the world”.  I thought it was sweet to read about, but at the same time it kind of made me laugh since what his wife did for him wouldn’t necessarily bring about the same response in my husband.  And yet again, that’s totally fine.  Each couple is different.

I used to think that idea was pretty basic and obvious, but sometimes I wonder.  Especially when I hear touted a mindset that is pretty prevalent in some Christian circles.  There is this idea that in order for a couple to have a good, Godly marriage, they must have regular date nights “out”.  I’ve even heard some formulas such as “an evening out every two weeks, a night away every two months, and a week away every two years”.   Supposedly this is doubly as important when you have young children and therefore you must make a point to leave your baby with others even when they’re very young just to make sure that you get this time “away”.  And — if you don’t do this — your marriage is pretty much guaranteed to not thrive at all and will basically fall apart.

Honestly, I find many, many things wrong with this mindset.  Some of them may find their way into future blog posts, but right now we’re going to focus on the most basic.  All couples are different.  There is no formula of “you must do this in order to have a good marriage”.  Each couple has different things they enjoy, different ways they connect, different ways they show love to each other.

For some couples, that may very well look like regular date nights out.  If that works for you and your husband, and you both feel like it’s the best for your family, then by all means, go for it!   But for other couples, that may not work for them, but that doesn’t mean that their marriage isn’t going to thrive.

For Aaron and I, we rarely go on dates “out”, for various reasons.   We both don’t feel that it’s worth it to regularly spend a lot of money on going out, we don’t really feel comfortable regularly leaving our kids for long periods of time, etc.  But does that mean that we never have time for each other?  Hardly!  Quite a few months ago, we started having weekly date nights….at home.  They aren’t anything super fancy.  Sometimes I cook a nicer-than-normal meal, maybe we’ll play a game together or watch a movie. Oftentimes we just end up cuddling on the couch and talking.  The point isn’t really what we’re doing — the point is to make a specific effort, in the busyness of our daily lives, to focus on and spend time with the other person.

I’m sure that the reason behind the mindset I mentioned earlier is to get couples to spend time together, focused on each other.  And I completely agree that if you don’t make a specific effort to do this, your marriage will not thrive.  But you don’t have to go “out” to do that.  Because…oh yeah, each couple is different.  So the ideal date for one couple may be incredibly boring to another.  But that’s okay.  Let’s just focus on our own marriages and learn to love our spouse in ways specific to them.  And rejoice in the amazing uniqueness of your couplehood and a God who made you perfect for each other.

Now one

This past Saturday, my sister-in-law married one of my husband’s best friends.  It was a beautiful wedding, very worshipful and focused on Jesus.  In my in-law’s lovely backyard, they stood under the arbour that Aaron had made for our wedding and pledged their lives to each other.  And after a delicious meal shared with family and friends, and speeches from the same, the bride and groom ran down the driveway surrounded by bubbles and sped away in their car.

Later that night, as I was cleaning up my little cottage from being used as the groomsmen’s dressing room and hangout place, I was thinking more about the couple’s getaway and how symbolic it was of the incredibleness of marriage.  Here is a young woman, married at the home that she had lived and loved in for her entire life.  She has an amazing family and had contributed much to that household over the last twenty years.  And yet, in the end, she runs hand-in-hand with her beloved and they drive away without a backward glance.

As I thought about it all over my sinkfull of dishes, I realized that is such the picture of marriage. No matter how much a girl has invested in her family and in her father’s home, or how closely-knit that family is, she (hopefully gladly) leaves it all behind when she vows to become a wife.  And that is how it’s supposed to be.  When she leaves her family and marries her husband, they become one.  While she will always be a daughter and a sister, now she is first and foremost a wife.  And that is how God intended it.

Occasionally I get asked if it’s hard for me to “live so far away” from my family in Idaho.  And while I have a great family that I’m very close to, honestly it’s not that hard.  Because this is where I’m supposed to be.  This is my life.  By my husband’s side, wherever that may be.  And while close proximity to family definitely can be a good thing, wherever our next adventure takes us — my love and I — we’ll be together and that will be even better.