Wednesday, September 25, 2013

your sacrifice is not mine.

I've been learning a lot the past couple of weeks.

The credit cannot be given to me in any way because, in the midst of grad school, copy editing, teaching dance, working full-time, and a long list of other "after school activities", I was not out looking for extra lessons or doing any frivilous research or reading.

The Lord decided it was time for me to learn about the definition of sacrifice. Actually, in order to teach me the definition of what sacrifice is, He taught me what sacrifice is NOT.

I suppose that in previous weeks, months, and decades (only 2.4 of those to choose from, thank you), as I passively thought about the concept of sacrifice, I looked to others' lives - imagine!
When I observed the life and ministry of another believer, I would ask myself if I would be willing to give up the things they have given up in order to be and serve like they are. This was an especially potent school of thought for me if that person had similar passions and interests as I do.

Typically I would answer (to myself, and to the Lord), "I think I could do that. Their life looks nice, and I know I could choose to sacrifice ____, ____, and ____, as they have, for a life and ministry that looks something like that."

I stopped. Shouldn't I have a different reaction to the concept of sacrifice? Shouldn't there be more of an internal ache at the thought? Don't get me wrong. I truly believe in the goodness of sacrifice, yet I was content looking at what others sacrificed, owning the sacrifice as my own, and deciding that it wouldn't be "that bad" to give up what they gave (as if I could really know what that is).

A combination of one particularly thought-provoking conversation, some wise people sharing their thoughts in a sermon, strategically placed readings, and a few personal moments led up to the question,

"What is the true meaning of sacrifice for me?"
 
So... What is it?
 
All of you who grasp concepts well and think with your brain know what it means to sacrifice, but
I had to really sit and soak it in. It's not about a feeling of, "Oh, I suppose I'd be willing to give that up." It is a gutteral cry of your heart, aching for the one thing you feel is, or should be rightfully, beautifully, and perfectly YOURS, placing it in your open, shaking palms, bowing your head, and willfully handing it back, knowing full well that the Lord could take it from you - leaving you to hold up what fragmented pieces of yourself are left with feable strength. You cry, you mourn, but you know that it is well.
 
Thy will be done.
 
Would you have it any other way? Ha, yeah you would! When we're haphazardly living through life, we all would have it another way. We would cling tightly to what we want, what is "ours", and what we believe to be the best life for us. Grasp it in closed hands, stomp our feet, and demand that this is the best way... "the way it should be!"
 
I don't know about you, but if given the opportunity, I could not have written my story up to this point as beautifully raw and real and redeemed as it is, and I don't think I have since gained the skills to be able to do so for the next however-many years. I trust in His goodness. I know He is faithful.
 
Here you go, God. Thy will.
 
---
 
Lord,
 
Help me to be willing to sacrifice the things I want the most in life. If it is your will to take them from me, help me to trust and be thankful. If it is your will to grant me any of my "ideals", help me to humbly accept the gift, live in honor of the gift, and be willing to give up the next thing if needed.
 
Amen. 
 
 
 


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

believe the best.

"This award goes to a student who is dependable, helpful to other students, exemplifies integrity, excels academically, always puts forth great effort, and whose peers voted him as someone they would most want to work alongside one day. This award goes to Michael Harrison York."

These were the [not exact, but paraphrased] words spoken about my husband last Friday, August 9th at the Liberty University Aviation Maintenance Technical School Graduation Ceremony.

Tears welled in my eyes and chills ran over my body. Pride.

That's my man.

There is nothing like hearing such admirable words spoken about someone you love, especially about the man who chose you to be his bride! I'm sure my face said it all as I sat there just beaming. He did it! He worked many hard hours. We sacrificed as a family for him to attend school for a year. He put forth the effort to excel in this program, and we were watching as he was awarded such an honor.

 
(here is a picture my dad took of the award - and yes, unintentionally he captured me admiring it)
 

I could go into many stories about the wonderful things that Harris did throughout the year. His leadership qualities were exemplified in mutliple facets of our lives and the lives of others. I could, but I'll save that for when you and I can sit and chat. I want you to feel the admiration I have for him when you hear about them. He is one great man.

There are times and there will be times when Harris frustrates me, hurts me unintentionally, or annoys me, but I am truly his biggest fan, and I want it to stay that way. I always want to be found cheering him on, singing his praises, and loving him well.

When things get hard, I believe we all need to replay the words we remember from things like:

Wedding vows
Award ceremonies
Heartfelt letters
Toasts given at weddings
Birthday cards

Whenever you heard or said truly loving words about the nature of the one you love, remember that! I truly believe the words spoken last Friday are words that describe my husband. [In fact, if it weren't completely socially inconsiderate to nod my head in agreement after each word was mentioned, I would have!] We must believe the best about our loved ones when things get difficult in our relationships. Remind ourselves of what is true about those we love.

My prayer is that if you're married to someone who is so great like my husband (and my guess is that you ARE or you would not have married them), that you would find multiple times to praise them, both privately and publically. My prayer for others is that you would find someone so great and also continue to believe the best in others around you.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

the to-do list.

I let my to-do list get control of me the other day.

A number of words fashioned in a vertically-downward way had the power to take over my peace.

Deadlines and expectations expressed in a list literally took over my mind... and all for what?


I reflected on the state of my heart as I was driving away from work the other day. The older I get, the more I am able to notice the beginnings of my frenetic energy (the state I get in when I allow myself to be taken over by negative thoughts/feelings). Call it getting 'in-tune' with me. I have a long way to go, but I'm starting to learn who I am. I was driving, thinking through that list of things I need to do, meanwhile I noticed that my heartrate and blood pressure were steadily rising.

God laid it out perfectly clear for me, and fortunately this time, I chose to open my eyes and see it.

My environment was speaking audibly of where my heart and mind should have been:  a worship song was playing in the background in the car, and the dude was singing to the Lord, "You are my Joy, You are my Joy, You are my Joy!" The grass was greener than summer has ever seen because of the abundance of rain we've had here in Virginia.

It was almost like, if you can imagine here with me for a second, a scene from a movie where something drastic happens in the main character's mind and the record scratches as they zoom into the character's suddenly-cognizant facial expression. That was me.

How did I let my to-do's steal my joy?

My joy is the Lord. My joy is in my heart because of He who is in my heart. I am not defined by these things on my to-do list. I will not let myself be controlled by them either. I will rest in Him, trusting that if I work diligently, allowing for time for the important things and just giving it my best effort, He will take care of what I really need.

No matter what.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

honesty.

"nothin' ruins a fake tan like a little excess on the heels, babe."

As I'm walking out the door to go to work, this is the comment I get after already loading the car and locking the front door. Aw MAN!

I found a great sunless tanning lotion.. [I know, I know.. most of you are thinking, "no such thing"].. but really, it just gives a nice touch of color! It's called Fake Bake. The title makes it sound corny, but it's really the best I've found.

Thought I had mastered the art of getting a good blend on there, only to hear this on my way out the door in the morning. I love that man. Keeps me humble.

It's never-ending silliness in this house. Sometimes you've just got to laugh.

[Don't look at my heels]



Friday, June 28, 2013

a letter.

To every girlfriend I have ever had,

First, I want to completely empathize with you and say that I can totally understand that feeling. I have SO often been in that place of feeling pride over one thing the first minute, and then comeplete shame over it the next. Whatever the thought is, "At least I'm not treating my husband that way. I sure am balancing my life well. I would never do that." all the way to the other end of, "I hate the way my body looks. I'm getting old, and it shows. I can't make a home like she does! I'm just average."  It is a frustrating back-and-forth of our minds. We are in a battle between the renewed mind that we are constantly receiving from Christ and our sin nature.

Next, all I have to say is that you're not a "twisted sinner" because you face these dichotomous thoughts and feelings, you are a sinner. That is what sin nature is.. twisted. It is twisted in exactly the way you are experiencing it.

Ultimately, the imbalance between feeling pride in one moment and insecurity the next screams of a stronghold that satan has on you and me. You are looking to others, like we all do at some time or another, for approval, disapproval, validation, judgement, comparison, etc.

Comparison will absolutely steal your joy. You will never be like anyone else, sweet friend. God created you that way, thankfully! He gave you SO many good gifts. People DO judge you. I'll tell you that right now. They do. That's what is going to happen in this world. You judge other people. This is part of the battle of our sin nature.

Our focus should be elsewhere than on ourselves. If we can manage that, the beauty that IS there will fall into place and we will effortlessly exude the glory that is within us, the Holy Spirit. You are SO beautiful. You are SO loved.. by God and by others. I mean, LOOK at the loved ones in your life. They are choosing YOU. They are loving YOU. So, not only can you be fulfilled by the ultimate and only source we need, our Father in Heaven, He also gave you the added blessing of being connected to others who love you for you.

I'm with you. I have to check my attitude at every door I walk into. I have to tweak my thoughts every morning, afternoon, and evening no matter where I am. It's okay to work on fitness, spend time doing your hair and dressing in a way that makes you feel good. It's not okay to let your thoughts take over and cause you to lose sight of whose you are. Satan loves when that happens.

"Finally, [sisters], whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8)

I love you more than words.

Run fast and hard towards your Savior. He will tell you who you really are.

-Tay

Friday, June 21, 2013

realignment.

After a time of owning and driving a car, you may notice that you slowly begin to fight the steering wheel to stay straight on the road. At first it's barely noticeable, but then the car is constantly drifting to one side. You must constantly exert more effort in order to keep the car on the road. It's frustrating! You feel like you are always pulling and tugging. Guess what that means?

Time to get the tires realigned! Wahoo!

[not]

Our attitudes are often in need of this same adjustment. [at least mine is]

The sinful nature inside each of us is constantly fighting to make its presence known. When we approach a difficult situation, especially when it's a "trigger" for us, we all have that gut reaction that's just waiting to come out and cause us to drift.

We may find our thoughts and attitudes shifting slowly at first, and then maybe to an obvious or noticeable degree.

We lose our attitude of thankfulness.
We lose our kindness and patience with others.
We drift away from what we know to be right.

We can find ourselves in a pattern of trying over and over to pull ourselves back, but sometimes we just need a full-out adjustment. We need to pull it over, go into the shop, and give up the fight. It's time for a tune-up.

You may only need a rotation. You may just need a quick reminder that your attitude should be that of joy and gratitude. You may just need to check yourself before you walk into that social gathering you've been loathing all week long. You may just need a little boost before you attempt something that is a challenge for you. You could, however, be on the other end, and need a full realignment. Take a time out to completely stop and recognize where you're going wrong and straighten it all out.

It will be so nice to have that realignment - you won't have to keep battling the road and pulling and tugging to stay in line with who you truly are! You will simply cruise along, windows down, relaxed, and drive down the path you're going on.

[ and as you car-owners know, that's not to say that once we get the realignment we're good to go forever.. thankfully we get the grace to come back in time and time again for a tune-up.. ]

When was the last time you went in for a tune up?

Friday, June 14, 2013

maf.

How does it feel to be the daughter of a truly self-sacrificing father?


I'm glad you asked.

I am aware that the gift I received is rare and should be cherished.

I am aware that the gift I received is what many would dream of.

I am aware that the gift I received should not be flaunted in front of others who did not receive it.


I do, however, want to take a minute to express my gratefulness for what my life has become because a man in my life chose the high road time and time again and allowed the Lord to guide his life in the big and the small things.

I grew up and I watched my father love my mother well, which is one of my first and most tangible examples of how Christ loves the church. He sacrificially gave of his time, money, attention, and resources to her and to all three of us without hesitation; he stewarded it all responsibly so as to set a good example. He never failed to attend my many dance recitals - and never came without a bouquet of roses and a big hug when I walked out at the end.

I never wondered if I was a treasure. I never wondered if I was cherished.

I felt safe, secure, and loved.

I was walked down the aisle by the man who showed me Christ in my younger years to the man who now shows me Christ on a daily basis in my married life. If that isn't the most beautiful gift, then I just don't know what is.

[As you can see, I started every sentence above with "I". That is what sacrificial love allows the beloved to do.. feel completely free and confident in that love and in themselves.]

I know there are plenty of girls out there who have only dreamed of having such an experience. My father was a complete gift from God, and I want you to know that I do not take it for granted. I also would say to those girls that you have a Father in Heaven who longs to shower you with this sacrificial love, and even more! He is more perfect than any dad could ever dream to be.

Thankfully there are men who choose, like my daddy, to follow Christ and give of themselves completely in service to others. This allows us to have hope and a glimpse of what our Heavenly Father is like.

Dad, thank you. I love you more than words. Happy Father's Day!

 
Linking up: Titus Tuesday

Monday, June 3, 2013

for the view.

My mom, sister, and I have started a tradition of reserving one weekend a year to get away, just us girls, to celebrate my mom & sister's birthdays. It has become such a treasured weekend.

This year, we met in the "middle" of Virginia and Georgia in the North Carolina mountains. One of the activities we did was hike to the top of Crowders Mountain. We had never been to this mountain before, so we were not sure which trail to take and how difficult each one would really be.

[There's a scale on the map, but you just never know WHO decided that moderate was actually moderate, if you know what I mean.]

We decided to take a trail that started off easy, continued on to moderate, and ended with strenuous. There was apparently a "landmark" at the end of the strenuous trail, so we decided we'd try that.

 
Here is the first part of the trail. 
At this point, we quickly gathered that when the sign read, "easy", it was accurate.
 
 
We took our time and enjoyed the little "extras" from hiking the trail. We saw bugs, birds, and lizzards (also a big black snake that slithered across the path), we balanced accross log bridges, we played in the stream, we smelled beautiful flowers, and we found the perfect walking stick.
 
 
It was a beautiful journey. When the trail was "easy", we stopped long enough to enjoy the beauty of it. We shared coversation and stories. We relished the little moments together and took moments to breathe in the scenery along the way.
 
When the trail moved from easy to moderate, and eventually to strenuous, our thoughts and attitudes shifted. We stopped enjoying the little moments, our conversation slowed (and changed from the beauty around us to the challenges ahead of us), and we had to get into a more focused mindset.
 
The question was passed between us, "should we continue on all the way to the top?"
 
In life, we pass through seasons that could be considered easy, moderate, and strenuous. Thankfully, we have the opportunity to direct our attitudes in each of those stages. The strenuous stages do require us to focus and bring our attentions inward (and that's a good and healthy response), but we can still keep a positive outlook on the plans God has for us.
 
We decided to keep a positive outlook on the challenge ahead and we were determined to finish.
 
Then we faced the final climb:
 
 
 
We helped each other up the final stretch of the strenuous climb, and we made it to the "landmark".
 
 
It was truly breathtaking.
 
"We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield" - Psalm 33:20
 
It was absolutely worth the struggles and the "season" of focus and quiet. We were able to enjoy the gifts in the first part of the climb, direct our efforts toward the challenges in the middle, and push through the trial at the end, only to discover that the view and sense of accomplishment was completely worth it. God does the same in our lives.
 
Enjoy the "easy" seasons and remember to stop to play in the stream and smell beautiful flowers.
--
Relish the "moderate" seasons because you're able to experience challenge but also stay on course.  
--
Hope in the "strenuous" seasons as God has more wonderful plans for you than you could imagine.
 
 
 
 
Linking up with: Titus Tuesdays
 



Friday, May 17, 2013

favorite things.

Everybody has that something that they just LOVE. It's one of their "things".

Most people probably have a handful of favorites that everyone who is invested in their life would know of or be familiar with. I have come, in my super-wise age of 24 (sarcasm... I'm not good at it, so I wanted to clarify here), to truly appreciate when someone has a favorite thing. What a sweet gift the Lord gave us, to have preferences and interests that are unique to the individual He created.

How cool that each of us can pick out certain aspects about the world around us that bring us a feeling that we enjoy. We don't deserve to have wonderful things, but we do, and most of us get to enjoy those things on enough of a regular basis to have them remain in the "favorite" category.

My sweet mama has a favorite thing.. one of many.. but it's still a favorite. Roses.


She has always taken pictures of roses. 



When I was younger I thought, "why would anyone want SO many 
pictures of roses, especially ones that grow in your own yard?" 


Now, I find it SO precious. You can see the complete joy she gets from these roses just through the lens. She knows ALL the names of the roses and she can tell you anything there is to know about them. How wonderful. 

The coolest thing is, if you allow them, someone who gets SO much joy from a favorite thing can transmit that joy to you through the sharing of their love. I learned that lesson with my husband as well. He LOVES airplanes and aviation. He tells me with the brightest eyes, all about the things he learns in school and the new planes that come to visit the maintenance shop. It's so exciting!

Never knew I could love roses and airplanes as much as I do. I guess it's the joy I see in their eyes that makes me feel so wonderful inside.

What's your favorite thing?

Share it with someone and transmit the joy!

Linking up to:
Titus Tuesdays

Monday, May 13, 2013

heard.

I went to the doctor this morning for my yearly (well, this is my first appointment since seeing a pediatrician) check-up. I have been to many other doctors, eye doctors, dentists, medical express doctors, etc., but this time was different.

My doctor really invested in me during the short time we had together; he asked really good questions and really listened when I talked. I felt great when I left!

There's nothing wrong with me and, as a healthy 24-year-old, fortunately I did not have much to chat about health-wise. I had a few questions here and there, but overall I just felt well-cared for.

It's amazing the impact of feeling heard.

The doctor likely did not, in the craziness of his day, have a ton of time for me. His to-do list was long out the door and I did not even have to confirm that with him to know it as a fact. Despite all of that, he slowed down enough to sit and talk with me and listen to me. I was heard.

We need to bring that important element into our everyday interactions with others. How great it would be, when a friend or coworker comes up to us to chat or ask a question or tell a story, if we would just stop long enough to make them leave feeling heard?

In the fast-paced culture we live in, rarely do you leave any function, event, or conversation feeling truly heard. I think that's why many people gather in coffee shops and small, intimate restaurants for lunch dates. As you sit there with only a warm-something to drink and a tiny table between you and the other person you're meeting with, the distractions are minimized and the conversation and listening is maximized.

Since coffee dates, lunches, and intimate gatherings are not always in abundance on our day-planners, I would challendge us all to stop where we are just to make someone feel heard. Who knows, you'll probably get a lot more out of the conversation if you're asking clarifying questions, listening with a tuned-in ear, and negating other distractions. What a blessing!

Anyways, thank you doc for listening to me. I wasn't even sick, but I feel much better!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

steal some time.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has this problem: I cannot always find time to sit and enjoy time reading my Bible, praying, or sitting in God's presence.

Here's my schedule:
wake up, get ready, drive to work, work, go to the gym, come home, clean house, study/write paper for grad school, cook dinner, laundry/random cleaning, harris gets home (late), spend a bit of time together, study again, go to sleep... repeat.

My daily routine does not leave much room for sitting at a coffee shop for an hour or so to sip on a latte and read through my Bible (not to mention that, because of the season of life we're in, we cannot afford for me to get a $4 latte every time I want to spend time with Jesus).


I sometimes get lost in the idea that it has to be like that; that I have to run off to a very 'romantic' spot and set apart a big chunk of time to get really deep and immersed in God's Word and in His presence. I get into the pattern of thinking that if I cannot spend at least a solid uninterrupted hour reading my Bible then I cannot get the time I need with the Lord.

It's like my relationship with Harris. To make us thrive as a couple, we need to carve out time to spend together and invest in our relationship. We need an occasional date where we splurge and enjoy a long, romantic evening together. We need to connect deeply and share intimately. We do not, however, always have time or money to go on nice, romantic dates where we spend hours together. 

We also greatly need those random times where we joke, flirt, and connect in a more regular, less extravagant way. We share stories in between dinner and studying. We laugh and joke as we walk out the door on our way to work. We text during lunch break.

Those times may not seem like they're super fulfilling and creating strong, deep, connections... but they are. It's the same in my relationship with the Lord. I can read a passage at work. I can say a heartfelt prayer on my walk to the mailbox. I can talk with the Lord as I'm folding laundry or right before I crack open my Research Methods & Statistics book.

All of these little moments are creating a relationship. If I cease to find little moments for lack of time to indulge in the big moments, I will lose the relationship all together.

Linking up to:
Titus Tuesdays
Teach Me Tuesday

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

childlike.

I was cleaning in my upstairs room at my house yesterday, and from my window I spotted a woman wakling on the sidewalk in the neighborhood. The sight caused me to stop what I was doing and take a closer look because she was walking at such a slow, steady pace.

Typically when you see people walking around the neighborhood, they're doing it for exercise, they're keeping a good pace and walking with purpose. This woman was indeed walking with purpose, but it was at such a slow pace.. I had to investigate.

I watched her and I was struck at how at peace she seemed. It almost brought me peace simply from watching her intentionality.

As I looked closely, I saw an extra set of legs on the other side of the woman, walking in-step with her. It was a little girl.

"The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: "Don't push these children away. Don't ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the Kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God's Kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in." - Mark 10:14 (The Message)

Children are at the very center of life in the Kingdom - it is so true! I'm not a mother yet, but I know that all mothers experience stress, worry, and frustration with children for various reasons. I also know, from what others have told me, that children bring the most joy to life in so many ways.

I was so blessed by this sight. How great it is to be reminded:

              to slow down,
be intentional about seeking peace in your life,
               and be okay with however 'out-of-the-norm' that may seem to others.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

act like it.

One of my favorite times with Harris is when he and I go on long roadtrips together. When we travel down to Georgia, we have 7 hours of uninterrupted, private conversation and hang-out time.

I just love it!

The thing I do not love all the time is the stress of driving in traffic. This is one place that Harris and I get into little disagreements.

On our most recent trip home, I drove first and I made the remark, "When I drive, we rarely get into arguments! This is great!" We soon realized that this was because I'm most definitely a "side-seat" driver, which annoys the heck out of Harris.

I started to think about it.. I genuinely do trust Harris. I would (and do) put my life in his hands in any situation and feel fully secure. I just don't always act like it.

        "Do you see that car?"

 "Woah, brake lights.. brake lights!"

      "Slow down...... speed up..."

"That truck is wanting to pass us.."

When Harris rides with me, there is equally as much distraction and action going on, but he sits there quietly and patiently (unless of course we're in danger of some sort - which happens when I drive, I'll admit). I know that he trusts me because his actions show me that he does.

I do trust God. I just don't act like it many times.

I worry and complain. I stress and question.

I would LOVE to make it my goal to really show the Lord that I trust Him with my whole life. It honors Him. The same way that we can honor our husbands by showing them that we trust them.

Don't get me wrong, we are here to be helpful, and we should call out things in order to keep each other safe. In the same way, I think that it is genunine when we tell the Lord when we are afraid. I'm just saying that when we really do trust someone, we should probably make an effort to show them that we do.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

open our eyes.

Sometimes looking for the path we should take, even if it is under the umbrella of good intentions and a genuine desire to serve the Lord, is the wrong approach to take to live out a life for Christ. As we've all experienced, life moves. Factors play into our lives that we neither ask for, nor could have imagined (Ephesians 3:20-21).

- Offers come out of the blue.
- Friends move on to bigger and better things... or smaller and less-better things.
- Changes happen with our without our awareness.
- Unexpected expectations are thrust in our path.
- Things or people are taken away with or without our consent or approval.

This is the type of movement I'm talking about. The movement that happens "haphazardly". We may be working towards something, which is good and right and responsible, but the Lord will allow "stuff" to invade our lives. That "stuff" could be great, it could be hard, but guaranteed it will be unexpected. We can never factor that in; all these things come in mysterious ways.
"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" -Romans 11:33
 Another way of saying this same thing is from The Message:

"Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out." -Romans 11:33
 
So what is our response to unexpected things?

We will never figure it out. We simply need to open our eyes and trust in His promises and faithfulness. Continue to follow your passion, Jesus Christ, and use the gifts, tools, and resources that God has provided.

Open your eyes to see these unexpected things from God's perspective, and He will work wonders. Allow these changes to transform your life and trust in the Lord's goodness through the process. There is unending grace available to us as we stumble, struggle, and sin our way through.

I wish all of you, and myself, the best as we try (with human hearts) to respond in this way. If we can, we will all continually be amazed at what He does.



 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

rough flight.

Harris and I recently went for a long flight, and to make a potentially really long story short, I'll just say it was the worst flight I have ever been on.

We travelled over tall mountains on an extremely windy day and we both learned firsthand what it feels like to be in a tiny Cessna while flying through what they call "mountain wave turbulence". I have been through turbulence in a Cessna (small plane) before. It feels like you're free falling for a short few seconds, and then the wind pulls you back up. I have NEVER felt anything like what I felt the other week, and Harris has not either (so he told me, thankfully, AFTER we landed).

I looked up mountain wave turbulence, and here is what I found to be some of the effects:
(from http://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Mountain_Waves
Loss of control and/or level bust: The vertical currents in the waves can make it difficult for an aircraft to maintain altitude. It can cause significant fluctuations in airspeed potentially leading to loss of control. Loss of control can occur near to the ground with a risk of terrain contact. 
- Turbulence: Aircraft can suffer structural damage as a result of encountering turbulence. In extreme cases this can lead to the break up of the aircraft. Even moderate turbulence can cause damage to fittings within the aircraft. Passengers can be injured.
 - Icing: Severe icing can be experienced within the clouds associated with the wave peaks.
 


I couldn't have told you those definitions before this flight, but know I know the effects of mountain waves intimately. I sometimes get afraid when we fly, but I would easily say that this was the most afraid I have ever been in my life. We tossed and turned, went up and down, and it felt like we were just a paper airplane in a tornado.
I tried all the techniques they suggest: I looked at far-away points on the horizon, I focused away from the controls (which were beeping and flashing at this point - I don't know what they mean, but my brain goes wild with potential possibilities), I breathed deeply and slowly, and I sat on my hands. None of that really helped me, we were not in control. I cried.

Harris was completely calm, very comforting (as much as he could be), and communicated well with air traffic control employees and his fearful wife. I sat and I prayed. Hard.

I felt completely in God's hands.. literally. I knew that there was absolutely nothing we could do to change the outcome of our flight. If we were going down, it was not because Harris was a bad pilot. He controlled the plane very well, even his instructors told him so afterwards. Harris is the best pilot I know and very prepared and responsible, but at that moment, I knew that God had it, the outcome that is ... whatever it would be.

Now, isn't that funny. We felt like we were in God's hands. Well, aren't we always??

We live under the false idea that we have control over our lives. To some extent, yes we do, we have to make choices. We have free will. Ultimately, however, I know that the Lord is in control at all times. Anything could happen.

The Lord was gracious enough to show me in a tangible way that I am truly in His hands. My life, my dreams, my goals, my family, and anything and everything else in my life is completely under His rule. I choose also to believe, from reading in the Bible, that He is good, even through the hard things. I am thankful for my life and the lessons that God walks me through each day. I am also thankful that apparently He's not done with me here on Earth yet!


Friday, February 15, 2013

hidden hurts.

This could be a stretch, but I tend to look at life in metaphors and analogies, so bare with me:

As you may have noticed from pictures, from our stories, or just because you know us, we have a stray kitty that we have been caring for pretty much since we moved here. He is the most human-like cat and full of personality and energy. We love him.

If you haven't already, meet Aubie:


We have the best set-up for him: because he is an 'outdoor' kitty, we let him out while we leave for the day to explore and run around, and then when we come home, we call him in for food and petting. It's great! (No nasty kitty litter to worry about!)

Well, for about a week, we called and called and he was nowhere to be found. Many people advised to expect "the worst" because that's just the nature of outdoor kitties. We didn't accept that and just waited for his return.

Finally, a couple of days ago, Aubie came home! He popped his head out of his little box Harris made him; he had returned! I picked him up, placed him in my lap, and loved on him.

As I pet his head, I felt a big bump on his neck. Thinking it was a burr, I dug around so that I could pick it out and clean him up. Much to my easily-nauseated stomach's disappointment, there, at the base of the thick tabby fur, was the largest, fattest, nastiest tick I had ever seen in my life.
By definition, it was a fully fed female deer tick. GROSS! This thing had to have been there for days, just sucking away, getting bigger and bigger.

Luckily I have a husband who isn't grossed out or afraid of anything (regular night in shining armor in my book), and he sprung into action to help Aubie. He grabbed a pair of tweezers and carefully and patiently plucked this nasty bug off of our sweet kitty's neck. Free at last!

This might be weird, but I started to think how annoying it would be to have something attached to you, imposing itself on you, while you feel powerless to get it off and constantly burdened by its presence. Nobody can see that it is there from first glance, so they think things are fine in your world, but they're not. You're burdened.

You may see where I'm going from here.

We all have something like that in our lives. There is someone or something that burdens you and causes fear, annoyance, anxiety, or frustration and nobody would know it was there. It is under the surface. We can maybe ignore it for a short while and we might not even be able to share with others what it is. We are constantly aware of its presence and powerless on our own to remove it. We need someone powerful to remove it and help us.

God, in our case, is the only one who can remove the 'ticks'. He is the only one who has the power to meticulously find the burden, know exactly how it is affecting us, and carefully and patiently pluck the nasty things out of our minds and hearts. Even better, He replaces those hurt places with healing and perfect love. Not only do we come away free, we get the gift of perfect, flawless love to fill the empty spot where the hurt was! What a great gift! Free at last!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

sassy.

It's Sunday night and I am in the middle of running around the house doing random things getting ready to bolt out the door to catch the latest episode of Downton Abbey with our friends. There is a pile of dirty dishes in the sink waiting for us to clean whenever we have a free second, but that free second is not right now. I finish most of my cup of coffee, and drop it off on the counter next to the sink in my hurry.

Side note: Harris hates it when I do this. In his defense, it does end up staying there until we have time to clean it and put it in the dishwasher, and the result is a round coffee stain around the bottom of the mug.

Harris sees me drop the cup off without pouring it out and makes the ever-dreaded  sound that your mom used to make when you did something you weren't supposed to do. You know the one. I'd type it out, but I can't do it justice. It's the sound that means, "stop right there, you know what you're supposed to do with that cup, and I'll watch you until you do it."

In my "fluster" and with my (unfortunately) often-present sass, I turn around, grab the cup, and while staring back at Harris, dump the cup's contents into the sink:
"Is THAT what you want me to do?"
I thought that I was dumping the remenants of coffee into the sink, but in the truest, most humbling fashion,  I missed the sink and the coffee splashed all over the counter! I didn't notice, and held my sassy stare until Harris proceeded with a smile, "Not exactly that!"

I turned, saw what I did, and we both just laughed and laughed. I instantly apologized for having an attitude about helping out with a simple chore, and then I proceeded to clean up my attitude AND my coffee.
 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

reality.

Harris and I resolved to be more intentional about setting up and planning date nights for each other this year. We each pick a night of the month to plan something unique for us to do as a couple with the intention of focusing on spending that time, undistracted, with each other.
 
We're super poor because of student loans, living off of one income (well, Harris works a few hours a week, so we'll say 1 and a half incomes!), and that's just the nature of the season we're in. All of that being said, THIS (picture below) was my first attempt at a creative date night.
 
I set up our air mattress in the living room and covered it with layers and layers of blankets and pillows, and created a fun atmosphere for us to enjoy a 'sleepover'/movie night in the living room!
 
 
 
 
I posted the above picture on Instagram, and instantly got a lot of "likes" and comments. Everyone thought it was the cutest idea. One very sweet teenaged cousin saw it and texted me, "Your date night looked perfect.. I can't wait to be married!"This made me smile at first, and then when I reflected on the actual events of the night, I thought... If only they all knew the reality of the night..
 
[One thing I hate about movies and media is how much they fake us into believing that dates/marriage/relationships are so dreamy and perfect all the time. Sex is glamorous. Kisses happen in the most romantic location imaginable and there is magical music playing in the background while the wind gently blows the woman's perfectly curled locks. He says the perfect thing all the time and his love for her is intense and dramatic.]
 
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE love. Ask anyone, I'm a sucker for it. I married the best man ever and he is as close to perfect as you can get! With all of that being said, I want to paint a picture of our date night as it truly happened: (it's long, but stick with me, it's funny)


  • Harris came down to see my 'creation' (which he actually knew I was downstairs preparing because I had to get out the air pump which makes an annoying loud noise.. and our townhouse is small, so there wasn't much secrecy there).
  • He had been watching some YouTube videos about the Tsunami of 2004 upstairs and showed me the first part of this documentary. (Side note: he's an inquisitve man; always looking up facts about anything and everything - basically your #1 trivia partner - so this was not totally random.)
  • We wanted to watch the rest of the video because it was amazing how crazy the stories were. Well, we ended up putting our movie selection on HOLD because we were captivated by YouTube. I cried and cried at the sad stories of those who passed away at the hands of the storm. Puffy eyes.
  • When we finished, it was time to find a movie. We looked through the selections and could not decide on one. Frustrating. As we searched, I laid my head down because I was so exhausted by the story we had just watched.
  • I fell asleep prematurely.
  • The christmas lights above were still plugged in, so they were making the room really bright, so one of us had to get up to unplug them from behind the couch.
  • Downstairs was extra cold (heat rises), and despite my efforts to provide many blankets, we were chilly - which caused me to wake up many times throughout the night.
  • Something happened in the middle of the night, maybe the plug got loose, but we sank slowly but surely down to the ground as the air snuck out of the mattress...
  • Early the next morning the sun shone brightly in the living room windows because of our sheer curtains downstairs.. GOOD MORNING!

All of that to say, YES, we had a nice time enjoying each others company, YES I created a fun "new" environment in our living room, and YES we enjoyed it. Was it as "picture perfect" as it may have looked in the picture.. not exactly. I love real life. It cracks me up that we trick ourselves into believing what pictures and movies present as reality sometimes.

One of my favorite quotes:
"The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel." - Steve Furtick
 
I just didn't want my "highlight reel" to fool anyone into thinking that our behind-the-scenes were anything but real life lovin' and livin'. Being vulnerable is one of my least favorite and favorite things. It's hard, but it is SO good.
 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

bad memory.

The particular 'types' of lessons that the Lord teaches me seem to show up repeatedly throughout my life. I'm sure He is up there thinking, "I have taught you this over and over again. Let's try a different angle this time to see if it sticks." I have a terrible memory. I'm thinking that might somehow have an effect on the lessons the Lord teaches me...

I'm constantly reminded of how much I need the Lord. How little I can accomplish on my own. How redeeming it feels to know each failure is completely covered. How cherished I am despite those failures. Basically I'm always reminded of the Gospel.

I have found that the most comforting exercise for me is to constantly look to Him, in the big and small obstacles, and try (key word there) focusing ALL of my attention on who He is. It has certainly distracted me from my own problems, worries, and fears. This practice caused me to remember (somehow) something that I tried to learn earlier in the year.

I looked back at my "new years resolution" from January 2012.. and it was about following the words of the hymn that says:
 
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
look full in His wonderful face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His Glory and Grace.

If only I'd learn this. If only I'd remember this. He is on a mission to engrave it on my heart. I'm sure a dent has been made because I do it more today than I used to. The more malleable I become, the better it'll stick, I suppose!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

faithful.

This morning I read through Psalm 66 as a part of a "Refresh Your Soul" practice/reflection from a blog I really enjoy reading, Grace Full Mama. 
Basically the assignment was to read through Psalm 66 and then reflect on how God has been faithful to you over the past year and what things showed His goodness and love over you.

I have been meaning to write about this for a while now, so this gives me the perfect opportunity!

Last year when Harris and I were first married, we began contemplating moving to Virginia so that he could return to school at Liberty. I was scared, honestly. I have never lived far from home, and I tend to be a "home-girl". We knew it would be a sacrifice, but we also knew that we wanted to follow the Lord's will for our lives, so we prayed about it a lot. Through some pretty crazy stories of the Lord speaking comfort directly into my fearful heart, we knew we were supposed to take this leap of faith and go, and we knew He would take care of us.

I had prayed a lot of prayers that were what I like to call, "fluffy" prayers, but they also just meant a lot to me at the same time. The Lord not only provided the essentials for us, He provided in abundance. Little requests that I thought, "You know, some of these prayers are completely petty, but I will just be honest with God." Well, He answered even those small requests in bigger and better ways than I could imagine for us! Here are a couple:

1. I really wanted a pet when we moved. Turns out we moved into a townhome that would not allow us to own a dog or a cat. I was really bummed because I wanted that "companionship" and something to take care of. About a week after we moved, a beautiful (albeit emaciated, dull-furred, and scared) kitten found his way to our back porch while we were eating dinner. I saw him, opened up a can of tuna to share, and slowly but surely over time this timid boy has become our best friend. We have adopted this little guy (Tiger), and he has become a member of the fam! So we're not technically breaking the rules, we've just adopted an orphan.... right?

2. Driving through town, I noticed that Lynchburg was a bit bigger than the town we moved from, so I hoped one of my favorite restaurants would be here, Chipotle. We searched, but no Chipotle around.. not a big deal. Literally the next day or two, we drive down the main drag near our house and what sign goes up over the new strip, but a Chipotle to be coming soon! Seriously, that was SUCH a petty request.. but I'm so grateful for these little touches of love.

3. I prayed for friendship. True, genuine friendship. I figured that I could meet new people and enjoy new friendships at wherever I was going to work or go to church, but I had a specific type of friendship in mind. I really wanted one where I could be completely, 100% myself with no reservations, and find someone who was like the best friends I had at home. Who did I meet the first week we moved here, but Amanda Bixler. My best friend in Lynchburg. Instantly we connected and I felt that friendship forming from day 1. The Lord did NOT have to provide in that way, but He did!
 
 There are SO many more ways that He showered us with love and kindness in ways that we did not deserve or need here in our new town. I got a wonderful job at the University (which helps us with tuition), Harris is working part-time at the airport, we instantly found a church that we love and connected with, we moved into a great neighborhood with lots of young couples and families, and much more.

Joy's blog says, "Remembering can greatly fortify our souls and bless our hearts as we look at what He has done." I think that is something so good to do: look back on how the Lord has blessed you and practice thankfulness often. When things get rough or when I am struggling with being away from my "home" and family and friends, I can always remember the ways that I've been blessed in such personal ways. I know God is with me - He makes that especially clear and obvious when He places little "gifts" in different places in my life. We are thankful.

Monday, January 7, 2013

new year.

Well, Happy New Year!

Harris and I had such a wonderful Christmas. I'm so thankful that the Lord gave us speech, words to use to express how we think about, feel about, and experience life. Sometimes, however, I feel so limited by my words to adequately express what certain people and things bring into my life. Time with family and close friends really does that to me - makes me incapable of truly expressing my inner peace and joy I get from those moments. So here's the best I can do: I am completely blessed by the wonderful people in my life, especially by the family I have been given. Not many people have the opportunity to feel so loved, and I am aware of this gift I've been given. The addition of Harris' family has also been an extreme blessing to me - not only do I get genuine love and warmth from my own family, but also the family I inherited when I became Harris' wife. Thank you, Lord!

After a short visit with amazing family and friends, Harris and I were given the opportunity to experience Urbana in St. Louis over New Years! Thanks for First Presbyterian Church of Rome, we were given a discounted rate to attend this amazing conference. To keep things short and sweet, I'll just list some "nuggets" we gleaned from that weekend:

The Lord loves it when we say, "yes" to following His plan for our lives and sacrificing things to do so (even if that means living overseas): He loves those who stand up and yell, "YES!! I'll go, send me!", but He also loves those who simply whisper, "Yes, Lord. Your Will be done in my life."
[of the two of us, guess who yelled and who whispered]
  
If we plan to serve and minister overseas, what makes us think we will be ready and able to do so if we are not serving and ministering in our own country?
 God may not reveal your calling in one magnificent revelation, but each of us can say "yes" in faith to little opportunities presented to us, which will in turn lead to a beautiful story of a life lived in obedience to the Lord.
 
 
Overall it was a wonderful experience and we both learned many great lessons from people who have lived out their faith both in the States as well as overseas. No matter where we end up, I have always known that I want my life to be about glorifying the Lord and serving others. I will simply say "yes" along the way to opportunities that are presented and that we feel we are called to do.