Today has been a really nice day. To start with, I have THREE bouquets of beautiful flowers in my kitchen. Daffodils from church on Mother’s Day, amazing brightly-colored roses from Bethan as a “welcome home” gift, and red roses from Kagi when I arrived last Tuesday. The sun is shining brightly, and after yesterday’s frigid temperature today has been warm.
Kagi and I are having a friend from church over for dinner. I’ve been working on the meal, laundry, and cleaning the house (finally) for most of the day. I also got to exercise (a little) and went to the nearby tennis club to inquire about a part-time job. I’ve actually been really busy, and I’m not done with everything yet.
I have two thoughts for today. First, it is good to work. This has been on my mind a lot lately, but today was a great reminder. Sometimes working feels fun and sometimes it doesn’t, but the rewards are always worth it. Mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually, it is good.
Second, I have continued to think about what I realized during last night’s church prayer meeting. I was struck while we sang the song Bless the Lord how often I rejoice or despair in my circumstances — hoping in God for good things to happen in my life rather than in rejoicing in Him. In fact, I even rejoice in His creation more frequently than I do in Him. I love people — both specific people and people in general. I also deeply enjoy other elements of creation. I rejoice in animals and scenery and flowers and sunshine. I thank God for them, which is good, but there is so much more to it.
I think it’s right to enjoy creation. Really, I think it’s good and suitable. People are amazing. The rest of creation is amazing. I could never make any of it, it’s so far beyond my creativity and ability to even understand. But it pales in comparison to the Creator. It’s nothing in comparison to Him. He’s more beautiful, intimate, majestic, complex, and the list goes on. The creation should make me more interested in the Creator. It can be delightful and wonderful, but it cannot replace my hunger for the One who made it all. It should never be the primary source of my joy. He should.
The beautiful thing is that the more I can keep that straight, the more joy I know, the more courage I can demonstrate, and with all the more accuracy I can live my life. I can glorify Him all the more, which is the best use of my life. It’s exciting!
Yesterday a man who I met during my first trip to Bradford came up to me at church. He is a very gentle man who spent a little time with the team I was with in 2010. I was one of three women who ended up spending time praying for him one day — that God would break into his situation and free him from oppression which was weighing him down. Particularly, he had been unable to play musical instruments, something which had been a great joy all his life. It seemed difficulty in his spirit prohibited him from expressing himself through his musical gift.
He told Kagi and me that he still remembers me because of that time of prayer. God began working toward restoration in his life at that time. He has been able to play music since and spoke of great intimacy in his walk with God. He thanked me for being a part of it.
To be honest, my memory of that day is vague. I was not the leader in that situation and I am very aware that whatever part I played was very small as God brought healing in his life.
What a blessing, though, to hear that from him. How wonderful to know that over two years ago God began healing which still growing and going deeper in him, which I got to be a witness to. What a beautiful thing that in the family of God we can have moments of joyful remembrance and praise for what He has done in our midst!
I just got back from my first Ash Wednesday service. For someone who was raised in the church, it seems a little strange that this is the first time (at least that I can remember) having ashes on my head. As the pastor put the ashes on my forehead, he said the traditional line, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.” To be honest, I was surprised. I didn’t expect him to say that!
Leaving the service, I admitted to my parents that I really didn’t understand it. Why Ash Wednesday? Why the message that I am dust? I know Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” But still, the message sounded strange by itself.
I just did a quick word search of dust in the Bible, and after finding loads of examples in just the first few books I realized that dust is everywhere! From Abraham’s decedents being like the “dust of the earth,” (Genesis 28:14) to the plague where the dust in Egypt became gnats throughout the land (Exodus 8:17). Those are probably irrelevant.
What I do think is relevant, however, are passages like Joshua 7:6 which say, “Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads.”
So the ashes are meant to be an outward sign of our repentance and acknowledgement of God’s amazing glory.
Which is cool. It reminds me of the lyrics in this song, Facedown, by Matt Redman.
Welcomed in to the courts of the king,
I’ve been ushered into your presence.
Lord, I stand on youor merciful gound,
Yet with every step tread with reverence.
There is none in heavens like you,,
And upon the earth, who’s your equal?
You are far above, You’re the highest of hights,
And I’m bowing down to exalt you.
And I’ll fall facedown,
As Your glory shines around.
Yes i’ll fall facedown,
As your glory shines around.
Let your glory shine around,
Let you glory shine around.
King of glory here be found,
King of glory.
It reminds me of the times in my life when I have experienced greatest peace, joy, and excitement, when I have been struck by reality — how small I am and how big God is. At those times, in light of his mercy, the only appropriate response is to be to fall face down. Or maybe to put ashes on my head. Recognizing that I am dust is somehow liberating and delightful.
There are times in life when we are disappointed in the people around us for one reason or another. I have experienced that. However, I would like to take this opportunity to share how I have had the opposite experience in recent months.
Many of you know that I got married on the 18th of August. Leading up to the wedding was one of the most wonderful and most stressful seasons of my life. Something that didn’t help was that Kagi was wrongfully kept from travelling to Canada when he was supposed to. It was one of those “how can something this unjust be allowed to happen” moments, and there was a time when we weren’t sure our wedding would be able to happen. Thankfully the situation was resolved(ish) and he was able to come to the wedding.
There were some other pretty difficult surprising things that have happened in the last few months. I admit now that a good chunk of the problems probably could have been avoided if I was more aware of my limitations. I tend to have a “I can do anything if I really try” perspective on things. I learned this summer that actually, there are quite a few things that I can’t do. Planning a destination wedding in less than 5 months while traveling in 3 continents and 5 countries (including a month in a village in Africa without much internet access), all on a very small budget, probably falls into that category. I also can’t control border agencies (to name a few examples).
But, miracle of miracles, even as I realized my limitations I was blessed with an amazing engagement time and a wedding that was beter than I would have dreamed it to be… even if I had more time and more resources and a better proximity to the location. Kagi and I had friends from the USA, Canada, England, Botswana, Turkey (:-)), Zimbabwe, and I am probably missing something. We had an incredible photographer and a brilliant videographer. My dress was exactly what I wanted. The food was top-notch. The music and dancing were SO fun. Even the weather was absolutely ideal.
And it didn’t come together because of me… as much as I wanted to bear the burdon for the whole thing. Left to me, it would have been like a half-baked cake, because my oven died before the baking time was up. I totally burned out.
It was the grace of God and it was His people. It was the Church.
My amazing friends and sisters pulled off two amazing showers and a bachelorette party for me. Countless people helped with the wedding and there were about 10 super-star heroes who stepped in to make the wedding better than it could have been if my budget was 10 times bigger. I’m not kidding.
|The bachelorette party in Toronto.
Although I know that weddings are important in a person’s life, my wedding seems a very small thing in the scheme of all of the problems in the world. I can’t tell you how loved by God I have felt in these last months — like a little girl who was given a totally undeserved gift by her daddy “just because I love you.” (I am now crying at the computer in awe.) Thank you, Lord.
And thank you, Church.
- Thank you Emily and Deb for being there for me the whole way through — and especially for the shower and bridesmaid things you did.
- Thank you Allison for making signs and planning the best bachellorette party ever and for being so happy for us. Thank you for helping with the music and for the dress. Thanks for recruiting your friends for the documentation jobs. Thanks for the amazingly sweet speech.
- Thank you Jenni for speaking, for your huge part in the music and for being Kagi’s advocate for years now:-).
- Thank you Jesse for making the trip even though it was so fast and inconvenient with your schedule. Thanks for not trying to beat Kagi up or anything. Thanks for being the life of the party.
- Thank you Catherine for making it possible for me to have fun… for making all the decisions and dealing with last minute issues. Thanks for good talks about marriage.
- Thank you Kara for the surprise lingerie shower.
- Thank you Meagan for playing violin and singing.
- Thank you Lish for singing.
- Thank you Moody family for really being my Maryland family. I am so blessed by you guys, it’s hard to put it to words. Thank you for hosting my bridal shower as well as for feeding and housing me when I’m in Maryland. Thank you for your many prayers for me/us.
- Thank you Katie for jumping in and organizing things on the day of the wedding without much information to go on ahead of time.
- Thank you Steven for being a great Emcee — for taking the time to learn the difficult names and for doing a great job of going with the flow.
- Thank you Gladstones for hosting so many people in PA. Thanks for doing the drinks, for hosting a shower and for hosting me so often! You guys are amazing.
- Thank you Jonathan for being the BEST man. My parents keep talking about how impressed they were with you.
- Thank you Uncle Fred and Aunt Beth for coming up early and for helping with so many things. Thank you for helping us financially as well.
- Thank you Dan, Seth, and Matt for running to our B&B during much of the reception to check us in.
- Thank you Amy for doing the photography in exchange for the trip, and for being such a great support throughout the whole wedding and rehearsal days.
- Thank you JP for making the trip as well! Thank you for videoing the whole thing so Kagi’s family can feel like they are included and know they are loved.
- Thank you Rudy and Sharon for being such an encouragement to us. Thanks for serving God in Botswana and for using your experience to bless us and make our wedding so much more meaningful.
- Thank you Tim, Bethan, Ffion and Mererid for spending your savings to come to America to be with us for our big day. Thanks for doing the incredible decorations and Tim for the amazing sermon.
- Thank you Ronit for the invitation and save the date designs. They were awesome.
- Thank you Peter for doing the music and DJing for us. You did an amazing job — my favorite dance party!
- Thank you Artaj and Judy for making the whole thing possible. Thank you for your incredible hospitality, your generosity, the use of your house, and your friendship throughout.
- Thank you Mom for my veil and bunting and decorating and hosting and for loving me so well. Thank you for being so excited for us.
- Thank you Daddy for being there for me. Thank you for writing blog posts about me and for loving me so much that I know it was hard to give me away. Thanks for being happy for us anyway. Thanks for being a part of things like the flowers, and for building me a gazebo and putting the doors up. Thanks for running errands for the chairs and dealing with the problems I caused by forgetting to tell you to bring cash for the caterer. Thanks for being generous with funds for the wedding. Thanks for dancing with me.
- Thank you David and Julie for being here for Kagi during his terrible days trying to get to Canada. Thanks for your help with our expenses and for being so gracious to us.
- Thank you everyone who came. You all travelled far and it would not have been the same without you!
|Here is a preview photograph from Amy Birdsong (amybirdsong.com). I am expecting the rest of the photos to be arriving within the next few days, so I’ll be posting them around as I go through them. In the meantime, if you want to see more visit Amy’s web site. There are lots of pics from our wedding there.
And thank you, Church, for your prayers and encouragement throughout our visa difficulties and separation. I can’t imagine this without you, but with you it has really not been that bad. Thank you.
Last week I went to a conference in the Yorkshire Dales (a place I love) for a conference hosted by Rob and Jane Garratt of 5000 Plus
. I was blessed to be the youngest (by quite a bit), spending several days with some very amazing servants of Christ.
5000 Plus was started by Rob and Jane as they listed to God about what He would have them do about poverty in the world. While on a visit to Nepal several years ago, Rob was feeling very helpless about the poverty he saw everywhere. One day, while worshipping with a local pastor and good friend, God spoke to Rob and told him that they needed to start with what the people have, not what they don’t have. Their ministry philosophy is derived from the story where Jesus feeds the five thousand in Mark 6. They note that Jesus tells the disciples, “You give them something to eat,” and that ultimately they use what they have (loaves and fish). Jesus then multiplied it, and gave it back to the disciples to feed the crowd. It’s exciting to hear how Jesus has done just this in the communities 5000 Plus works in.
Rob and Jane are looking for other “Gray Nomads” to work with them in taking the message and teaching of 5000 Plus to more impoverished communities. These people with life experience, financial and time flexibility are in a unique position to make a huge difference for the sake of the poor. Do you know anyone you think might be interested? The only requirement is that they are open for adventure!
Here are some pictures from my hike one afternoon in the Dales. They really are beautiful!