Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Brokenness


 Brokenness is not a feeling or an emotion. Rather, it requires a choice, an act of the will. Further, this choice is not a one-time experience. True brokenness is an ongoing, constant way of life. True brokenness is a lifestyle - a moment-by-moment lifestyle of agreeing with God about the true condition of my heart and life - not as everyone thinks it is, but as He knows it to be.

Brokenness is the shattering of my self-will - the absolute surrender of my will to the will of God. It is saying "Yes Lord" - no resistance, no chafing, no stubbornness - simply submitting myself to His direction and will in my life.

Brokenness is the stripping of self-reliance and independence from God. The broken person has no confidence in his own righteousness or his own works, but he is cast in total dependence upon the grace of God working in and through him.

Brokenness is the softening of the soil of my heart - it is the breaking up on any clods of resistance that could keep the seed from penetrating and taking root. Believers with broken, contrite hearts are receptive and responsive to the Word.

As wax or clay must be soft and pliable in order to be molded by the artist's hands, so the broken, contrite heart is easily molded by the hand of God and does not harden itself against the circumstances God choose to mold it.

-Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Brokenness: The Heart God Revives



Monday, December 19, 2011

Our Wedding - Part 2

The morning of August 27th dawned early for me, and I woke up with a smile, grateful for a good night's sleep, and hardly able to wrap my mind around the fact it was actually the day. The day I had been waiting for much of my life, and dreamed of so many times. I don't even remember what was on the menu that morning, but a vague recollection of some sort of breakfast casserole given by some friends seems to stick out. Whatever it was, I don't think I was very hungry. :-)

 It was incredibly special for me to have a couple dear girlfriends staying at our house that weekend. One of my bridesmaids, a photographer, and personal attendant/bridal table server combined to make a group of girls that were not only helpful, but so fun. We piled into our vehicles around 8:30, and headed for the church to get ready. The next hour and half was like a whirlwind in one sense, and relaxed in another. I bought my dress from this company and enjoyed the un-complexity of the zip-up back. I chose a simple hair-style, and these factors combined to create a stress-free, fast dressing session. I enjoyed mingling with the musicians that were at the church early to practice, and the different family members also there preparing for pictures.

Our photographer, Seth Haley, arrived at the church around 9:30. He caught a few prep pictures, and then the bridal party headed to a near-by park to take pictures. One of the most satisfying things for me was to have these dear bridesmaids around me that I had chosen in my mind for at least two years before our wedding. Having friends that stick with you through thick and thin is something to be greatly treasured. Having Laurissa, Janelle, and Amy so close around me that day is something I look back with great fondness.





Laurissa - I had to wait nearly 9 years for a sister, but God gave me a treasure in the one He blessed me with. In my earlier years, I often bemoaned the fact that she was so much younger, but she grew up so quickly into a beautiful young lady that quickly locked herself in my heart as one of my closest friends. She continually inspires me with her servant's heart, her sweetness, her enthusiasm for life, and her patient, uncomplicated way of dealing with situations that would would leave me completely stressed out in frustration. I often say that when I grow up, I'll be satisfied if I'm half the woman she's already proven herself to be.




Janelle - I was acquainted with this dear mom-of-four 3 years or so before we really started to get to know each other, but once we broke through those walls of natural reserve, we discovered in each other a soul-kinship that has grown incredibly deep over the years. Janelle is not only a friend that challenges me with her unwavering joy, servants heart, submissiveness to life's difficult circumstances, and spunky love of life, but one that has cried and shared with me through some of the hardest season's in life that I've walked through. I can never hide anything from her, and her knowledge of some of the tenderest things of my heart only endears her more to me!




Amy - Other than my sister, Amy is probably the longest standing friend I have ever had. We met very shortly after our family made a huge move to a different state, and although our friendship has grown slowly over the past 10 years, it has proved itself to be a solid, and lasting one. Amy has always had the gift of a listening ear, and is a friend I can always count on for prayer. Never have I been more grateful for modern technology as now, as many, many miles separate us as she serves the Lord in India. She is one of those sorts of friends that I would travel around the world to see many times over. Lord willing, Joel and I will get to do that some day.





My two other chosen bridesmaids were sadly not able to attend our wedding. My dear friend Megan Knapp from Alaska had a baby shortly before our wedding, and Cheri Cross had college commitments in Georgia. Their absence left a hole, and years before I never would have dreamed they couldn't be there to share the most special day of my life. Life does move on for all of us, though, and I am incredibly excited to see God's directing hand in their lives, and their faithfulness to follow His will.


Also around me were so many other dear friends that I hardly have space to mention here. Photographer friends, bridal table servers, decorators, kitchen helpers, and servers, musicians.... Each one played such a vital role, and my biggest regret about our wedding is that I couldn't spend the time with each one the way I wanted to.

I'm going to close this post with an assortment of pictures taken by Seth of our bridal party. We had a blast, and Seth did such a wonderful job of putting us all at ease, and capturing the moments that were so special. :-)







All pictures taken by Seth Haley except #1 and #2 which are credited to Linda Newman.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Where do you run?

The frigid wind bit my lungs as my husband and I walked into St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, MB. I pondered the long winter ahead, the breathtaking wind chills Manitoba is famous for, and my own warm-weather-loving bones. A slight sigh escaped my lips as I wondered how quickly the next 2 1/2 bone-chilling months would pass by.

A minor ailment called us to the clinic, and I was well equipped with my Bible, laptop, journal, and a good book to pass by the couple hours I knew we would be there. I found a Tim Horton's downstairs, (Canada's wanna-be Starbucks) and curled up in a comfortable corner with my coffee and paraphernalia scattered around me. With the cultural diversity of the large city, I hardly needed my things to keep me entertained. People watching would have quite sufficed.

The slight, Oriental nurse sat across from me, enjoying her break, and the newspaper sitting on the table. Next to me at a small table four senior citizens explored the in's and out's of the latest town gossip. A brown-robed, rope-belted, heavyset priest waddled toward the pharmacy in search of who knows what. Across the room I watched two young men. One was a perfect picture of the hippie movement, and the other sported a neon blue mohawk. Obviously, they considered whatever they were talking about quite humorous. Behind me I heard Spanish, clear German accents were all around, Chinese came from another corner, and a sprinkling of French was faintly heard here and there.

In the midst of the hubbub, constructions workers from a near-by project coming in for coffee, and the many family members waiting, a lady caught my eye. Obviously a patient, she was dressed in a thin cotton robe, and pushed ahead of her all of her IV equipment. Memories of the awkwardness of this from my last year's gallbladder surgery made me wonder what prompted her descent from her hospital room. With only a thin, see-through plastic rain-coat covering her robe, she stepped outside into that breath-catching frigidness of winter. With a -25c windchill outside, I knew she must have some sort of important mission. As I watched her breath made steam clouds in the air, my questions were soon answered as she fumbled with a lighter and cigarette. One word crossed my mind as I sadly watched her endure the elements to get her fix. Addiction.

My mind traveled back to a series of meetings Joel and I had just sat through, in which the speaker had talked about this very thing. He brought out the fact that most of us are addicted to something. As I've thought about this over the past few days, many sad realities have crossed my mind as I ponder the culture around us. Apart from the obviously destructive addictions like drug abuse and alcohol, creep in subtle ones that most of us don't see any danger in. Money, entertainment, fashion, food, compliments and acceptance from others, leisure, caffeine, shopping, TV, and social networking.

An addiction usual develops through either a lack of self-control, or a real, or perceived need in our lives. I think it is safe to say that an addiction is anything we default to for a "fix" when we are feeling low, lonely, discouraged, or worthless. The dictionary brings in an element of devotion. It's usually the first thing to get done on our list, or perhaps we don't even put it on our list, because habit dictates that we never forget it. We feel an emptiness if it is missing from our lives.

The question begs to be asked. Where do we turn to when we feel needy? Is it God, His word, prayer, and godly friends and counsel, or it is something that gives us a temporal, feel-good high, and leaves us crashed, burned and more needy afterwards. Are we finding our fulfillment in lasting habits and activities, or in the ONE who never changes? Have you asked yourself lately, where do find your satisfaction?

 "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." 
Matthew 11:28

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sweet Endings....

...to a simply lovely evening. Thanks to sweet Canadian friends who were willing to come over and help this American celebrate her favorite holiday. :-) 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Ponderings

I'm living in Canada. Tomorrow is not Thanksgiving here, but let me tell you, this US girl is still feeling the holiday pull. Quite honestly, celebrating here in the middle of October just didn't feel real. I mean, it was still warm, and, well, just too Fallish! It felt somewhat like it was kind of a pretend, make believe game. People here say the same thing about our Thanksgiving. They can't imagine celebrating it with snow on the ground and Christmas just around the corner.

Thanksgiving has always been a special season for our family. I can say quite truthfully that I looked forward to it more than Christmas in many ways. For me, it always marked the beginning of a cozy, family-centered winter, with free times scheduled around books and hot cocoa, games nights with cider and snacks, or outdoor activities such as ice-skating and family snowmobile trips. It marked the end of a busy gardening and family music schedule, and promised a little more time to breath and enjoy life. 


It's bothered me over the past few years how much Thanksgiving seems to be overlooked. Stores and yards seem to go immediately from ghoulish Halloween decor straight to a Christmas theme. Our country as a whole seems to give the same impression that Thanksgiving is a fairly insignificant blip in the middle of the week, and merely an excuse to enjoy a day off of work and a big turkey dinner.

My intent is not to make a big deal out of nothing, but it's caused me to think a lot about gratefulness over the past few weeks, and wonder if that character trait is also one that is largely overlooked. In a country abounding with more wealth than 90% of the world can even dream of, discontentment and complaining are stunningly real and everyday with most people.

I've been mulling over a quote I read a couple weeks ago, and really praying the Lord would apply it to my life.

"A thankful heart makes everything enough." 

I guess the connection between gratefulness and contentment had never hit me quite in that way before. If we're honest with ourselves, it doesn't take a lot of effort to want something different than what we have. Cultivating a spirit of discontentment  does not take a lot of work. But contentment can really be just as easy to cultivate if we start making habits of looking at life through a grateful set of eyes. Not a whole lot of thinking is needed to to discover how much we really have. 

Let's remember, that at it's root, gratefulness  stems from a trust, and surrender to God, believing that He has given us everything we need to glorify Him best. Let us take hold of this, and implement the exhortation given in Hebrews 13:15 -

"...let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name."  
 You might find yourself surprised at how blessed you really are!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Our Wedding - Anticipation!


 The week before our wedding surprised me. Everyone told me it was going to be crazy, hectic, stressful, and exhausting. That I was going to be so tired by my wedding day that I would just want to crawl into a bed and sleep for a week. I was expecting this, and even with all our planning, and my mom's incredible organizational skills, I wasn't holding out for a relaxing week before.

I remember the feeling so clearly that Monday morning. Mom and I looked at each other, and said, "Are we really done?" We could think of very little that we needed to do yet! I had a few last minute thank-you cards to write, and final packing for my move and honeymoon, but that was virtually all! We had worked, and worked, and worked so hard before the wedding, that when that Monday-before-the-big-day hit, we all as a family felt that we could literally breath a sigh of relief, relax, and just enjoy our last few days together. None of us were expecting this at all, but it turned out to be one of the greatest blessings that could have happened.

Joel drove in Wednesday evening, and as the hour drew near for him to arrive, I sat on our front porch steps, watching, waiting, and snapping beans. Yup! You read right! Our garden was by no means taking a break for our wedding, but that was normal summer life, so I don't consider that wedding-related busyness. :-)

So, as the late afternoon sun filtered through the leaves, I snapped, and snapped, and dumped my bucket of finished beans a couple times, and waited. That last 30 minutes before he arrived during our courtship always seemed SO long, and this time was by no means an exception. Joel did eventually arrive in good time, despite my impatience, and as we beamed at each other and enjoyed a hug, all we could say was, "No more goodbyes this time." It was a wonderful feeling!

Thursday morning Joel and I spent in town buying a few last minute things, and arrived back just in time for lunch and for my flowers to arrive by Fed-Ex. Now, I'm going to go on a rabbit trail about flowers, so if you aren't interested, just skip the next two paragraphs. ;-)

I chose cream and lavender roses, antique purple hydrangeas, picasso calla lilies, and babies breath, plus some assorted greenery. Before planning my wedding, I honestly had no clue whatsoever what flowers would cost. When I first walked into a florist shop and inquired about ordering un-arranged flowers in bulk, the prices nearly took my breath away. The cheapest of those that I was thinking of were roses @ $3.50 a stem. Mind you, I said the cheapest, with hydrangeas soaring near $10 a stem. I knew I had to find a different option, especially considering my centerpieces were also going to feature flowers.

To make a very long story short, I traded time for money, and spent literally hours online researching the best options. It was worth it though for $0.79 roses from Globalrose and a case full of greenery and baby's breath from Sam's club. Weddinghydrageas is a company out of California that had the best prices I could find, (though hydrangeas are expensive anywhere!) and Bloom's by the Box had the mini Picasso calla lilies I was looking for. It was a bit of hassle ordering them from four different places, but I literally saved hundreds doing it this way. Another thing I did to cut down on prices was to look for nice silk flowers or arrangements in my colors at thrift stores and garage sales. Silk flowers are also very expensive, but I knew if I could find them this way, they could be used as filler for my centerpiece bouquets and nobody would know the difference. All in all, I would say that if you have a friend who knows how to arrange flowers, try this option! I have no regrets with any of these companies.



A dear friend of mine came in Thursday afternoon and prepped these buckets full of flowers for me, while Joel and I headed out to door to go pick up my florist friend from the airport. That hour and half drive was a wonderful time to just relax, and enjoy the last few quiet moments together before the big rush. This "florist" is a dear friend of mine from NC who flew out just to arrange flowers and decorate for our wedding. This was a HUGE blessing, and I can't imagine a professional doing a more beautiful job than she did. Tasha has incredible talent!

Tasha (far right) headed up the decorating with Letha and Hannah assisting.


That evening held a bridal shower for me hosted by my bridesmaid's, and it was so wonderful to have so many of my close friends there. NC, MI, MN, WI, and Ontario were represented, and it was a sweet evening of fellowship, games, a delicious meal, lots of gifts, and a powerful devotional that encouraged reliance on Christ no matter what season you are in.


So many seasons were represented there.... A busy young mom with children, a married friend waiting on the Lord for children, engaged, and single girls yet waiting on the Lord for that godly man they dream of. I appreciated the fact that this devotional touched each of us in a special way, which it can really only do if Jesus Christ is at the center. Sara did a wonderful job at bringing that out.

The beautiful Victorian Tea the girls prepared.

Though exhausted from the evening, I could not sleep. That's just me, though. When excited about something, or when I have a mind-full, my brain will just not shut off. So, I tossed, and turned all of Thursday night, and was thus quite exhausted the next day. That was one thing I wished I could have changed, but it was what it was. God's grace was sufficient for even that, though I did feel I had to mentally shake myself out of brain-fog the entire next day!

Friday morning found me fairly early at the Sykora's, where Joel was staying, as were our wedding coordinators, with the lady of the house being one of my bridesmaids. :-) Because our wedding coordinators were from Canada, we had to wait until last minute to go over all the details with them. This took a good couple hours. First, though, came the biggest feast of a breakfast I have seen in a long time, followed by a short time of reading Scripture together and singing. This was a special blessing for me, and calmed my heart for the rest of the day. It didn't get us to the church until nearly noon, but it was worth it. :-)

Decorating the guest book table

The decorating and preparation was already in full swing, and I could hardly believe how many people were there serving, and throwing their hearts and talents into making our wedding possible. Cooking a rehearsal dinner for 70 and half the food for the nearly 400 guests the next day (we had half of it catered) was no small feat. Arranging bouquet centerpieces for 50+ tables, turning the gym into a reception site, and the 4 bridal party bouquets was an all-day project. It surprised me HOW much work it took, but also how smoothly it went. For myself, I was merely running around all afternoon answering questions and giving details. It was a slightly overwhelming feeling at times to be on my way to do one project and to be caught by three different people at the same moment all needing things. :-) I didn't quite anticipate that, but I suppose it was quite normal, just a bit tiring. :-)

Answering texts from bridal party members that were lost! :-)
Antique jars waiting to be filled with flowers and candles.
Who would've thought a gym could look so pretty!
Though it felt for awhile that things weren't going to get done in time, they did, the rehearsal went fine, and the dinner afterward was lovely. It had been a long-time dream of mine to serve a nice rehearsal supper as a thank-you for all those that put so much effort into preparing and helping out. Our friends John and Linda Marvin, and Gena Borntrager were largely responsible for making the meal of BBQ ribs, almondine green beans, garlic baby red potatoes, and garlic bread a possibility. We went simple for dessert, and served brownies and Chocolate Shoppe's "Heaps of Love"  ice cream. Folks, seriously *the best* brand of ice cream that is possible to create. :-)

Practicing for that big moment. :-)

The church we were renting had the policy of being out of there by 8:00, so the evening was not too late. I was grateful for that. Upon arriving home, I got a shoulder rub from one of the 3 girlfriends that was staying at our house that evening, a hot cup of "Sleepytime" tea, and a soft bed. Many were praying that I would sleep that night, and their prayers were heard. I woke up Saturday morning feeling quite refreshed and excited for the biggest day of my life!

Photo credits: Seth Haley, Christian Gawin, Linda Newman, Ryan Hoshor, and Janelle Sykora

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Gateway to Glory


My mind travels back to a little over two years ago. After two trips deep into the recesses of the Copper Canyon region of Chihuahua, Mexico, and discovering that a piece of my heart landed there, I was considering the invitation to make a longer term trip back there. Much of me wanted to go, parts of me held back. What was God's will? Where was I supposed to spend my time, efforts, energies, and prayers?

Over the course of the next several months, these questions pressed hard upon my heart, forcing me to the throne of God. For answers. For directions. For clarity of vision. For purpose.

There were times I felt like I praying in a brass-lined room. My prayers and desires seemed to bounce back, with no rhyme or reason, no finger-writing on wall, no sense of peace either way. So I sought harder. I surrendered myself deeper. My prayers became more earnest, and my times of seeking God more real.

Did the answer come in a flash? Did some sudden moment of revelation break through the clouds, and stun me with a blinding clarity? Did the months of waiting suddenly seem as nothing, and the fruit of them quickly becoming apparent?

In looking back, my answer has to be a resounding "no." Peace gradually replaced questions with the gentleness of a morning sunrise. Uncertainty turned to answers, as God slowly put pieces together. But more important than the eventual clear direction that I was seeking, was the realization of what God had done in my heart during the process. In this months of seeking Him, God taught me a valuable lesson of what it means to hunger and thirst after Righteousness. (One of the attributes and names of God.) He taught me the reality of the statement:

What you are becoming while you are waiting, is infinitely more important than getting there.

Do we believe this? When answers are not straight-forward, do we give up in despair, accepting the subtle lie that God is really not concerned about our everyday details, or more importantly, the yawning, uncertain future that sometimes seems to press us down with the weight of the unknown?

In the past few days, I've been meditating on this concept of waiting, and the suffering that it sometimes involves. Some of Nancy Leigh DeMoss's teaching in the recent weeks have tied into it as well. Some of the thoughts she shared were a spring-board for what I'm going to write, so I would encourage you to go listen to her whole series if you are walking through one of these particularly difficult times in life and need some encouragement.

One of the statements she made jumped straight out of my speakers, and hit my heart.

Waiting in and through fiery circumstances with a heart set on God only burns away the cords that bind us. (Fiery Furnace)

What sort of cords? As I thought through God's refining process in our lives, self kept coming to the front of my mind. "Christ in me, the hope of glory," and "Not I but Christ" is God's ultimate goal for us, therefore some of those cords that bind us can rightly be named as:

Cords of selfishness.
Cords of self-love.
Cords of self-reliance.
Cords of self-pity.

 Cords of a self seeking, or worldly mindset

Our natural human tendency is to run away from suffering, to resist pain, to do everything in our power to escape hardship. Think about it. In reality, doing this cuts short the refining process God wants to take us through to root out these tendencies in us. Consider with me that the most scathing rebuke in the New Testament is given to Peter when he seeks to turn Jesus' face away from the cross. Whether it be a catastrophic tragedy, heart-rending circumstances, waiting when there seems to be no moving or answer from God, or simply the daily cares and trials of life that seeks to wear us down, the principle remains the same. The cross is God's gateway to glory, and to prosper in our walk with Him, we must embrace whatever God sends our way.

If we will take time and consider the multiple principles laid out through Scripture, we will realize that on the other side of that cross is everything we are looking for. Remember it is promised that a momentary affliction will produce eternal fruit. (11 Cor 4:16-18) If we take this by faith, there is nothing that should hold us back from rejoicing in tribulation, Only a worldly, "here-and-now" focus on life will thwart God's purposed in our life.

The biggest question then must be asked. Are we willing for God to bring us through whatever it takes to work in us the refining that He sees as needed? Can we take our eyes off of the momentary pain or uncertainty we are facing right now, and focus on the eternal fruit God has promised to work in our lives through it? We are being fashioned through these things for greater fruitfulness here, and for a better place above where we will at last be made perfectly into the likeness of the One who is fashioning our life according to His perfect understanding. We Can Trust Him.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Happy, Random Post

I can't think of a season in life when I've been happier. God's blessings are too numerous to count, and I'm living out a life-long dream, with my best friend/husband by my side. With two months of marriage behind us we are finding life to just get sweeter, and our love to grow more deeper and true.

A few random snippets from life here in windy Manitoba

- Keeping a house and figuring out a cleaning schedule

- Trips to Winnipeg; an extremely culturally diverse city

- Eating at an Ethiopian restaurant

- Inviting friends over last minute for dessert

- Trying to decide what paint colors to buy for the walls

- Purchasing piano books for my soon-to-be students

- Having time to practice piano

- Trying all sorts of new recipes, and learning to cook many of the German and Oriental dishes that are so popular here

- After dark walks with my husband around town

- Enjoying all sorts of pop-in visitors

- Fetching laundry off the lawn that the wind blew away

- Budgeting and grocery shopping

- Sorting through the hundreds of wedding photos, and deciding which ones to print

- Gradually working on the 130 thank-you cards to write

- Enjoying quiet mornings with my Bible, memory cards, and a cup of coffee

- Counting my blessings daily!

Many have asked for more wedding photos, so I'm pondering the thoughts of doing a "Wedding Series" here soon. There were so many details that made that day so perfect and fun. Some days I wish to go back and re-live it all. It was truly a whirlwind day, and so often on August 27th, I wished I could make time slow down and savor every little moment to it's fullest. In ways, I'm doing that now with the photos.

Many thoughts have been wandering up and down the hallways of my heart these past few months. Lessons in this new season of life seem too numerous to even try to write about, yet I'm wanting to capture some of them to savor, meditate on, and record. Sometimes I think it's laziness that keeps me from writing more here, sometimes it's a feeling of inadequacy to truly portray my thoughts, other times it's just a letting-go in lieu of other priorities. All that said, I do want my appearance here to be more frequent. God's faithfulness has been so sweet and real, it deserve a more public mention. :-)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

One of the things I love about being married....











Is having the time to try all sorts of new recipes! Joel and I *loved* this one, and I'll be making it again without question!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Our Wedding Song - written by my family

The weekend we met.
 Archie’s coffee stand, refreshments on her mind.

What would this all lead to, to this she was blind.

*see bottom*

Who is this girl? Conversation did abound!

The lemonade he gave to her led to a wedding gown.

 <3

 Chorus: Life’s road ahead, however God will lead.

Mountain tops or valleys, the joys they will see.
 
Two hands held tight, heart’s joined forever. 

 Andrea and Joel will travel down life’s road 
 together.

 <3

Our first picture together.
His first visit came, both nervous as could be.
 
But he fit into our family, God’s hand we could see.





A restaurant in Fort Francis, precious words he did say. 
And now we’re here to celebrate their wedding day.

<3

 Life's road ahead, however God may lead;


Mountain tops or valley, the joys they will see;


Two hands held tight,


Hearts are joined forever...

Andrea and Joel will travel down life's road together.


*The weekend we met and the picnic table we spent hours visiting at. Joel's sister knew her brother well enough, and snapped this picture, saying to her husband - "This is for their wedding powerpoint." And yes, we are drinking free lemonade from the stand. :-)

All photos except the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 9th, and 11th are credited to sethhaleyphotography.com. The 4th photos credit goes to Linda Newman.