My Husband Makes Things Out of Wood

Map of AfricaMatt would like this entry to be called something else: “My husband makes carpentry type things”.
In any case – check it out!

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A most helpful blog post from Desiring God Ministries

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/when-a-rock-sunk-slowly

My favorite parts are here below, but I do recommend reading it in its entirety.

 

Peter showed remarkable faith in asking to follow Jesus out on to the water. No one else did.

But when he began walking, what held him up? We might quickly assume it was his faith. But that’s not accurate. Peter’s faith wasn’t keeping him afloat. Jesus was. Peter knew that. That’s why he didn’t just leap out of the boat on his own. He asked Jesus to command him to come. What Jesus did was honor Peter’s faith by commanding the water to bear his weight.

Lesson #1: faith is not faith in our faith in Jesus, it’s faith in the power of Jesus’ word.

But have you ever noticed that Peter the Rock didn’t sink like a rock? The last time you jumped into a pool, how gradually did you sink? There’s something profound going on here.

Peter began to sink when his faith shifted from the firmness of Jesus’ word to the instability of his circumstance. And when he did, it was Jesus letting him sink — slowly. And for Peter that was a grace.

Why? Because Peter’s sinking produced his cry to Jesus. It quickly got Peter to stop looking to the world or himself as the source of truth and salvation and got his focus back on his Savior. When he did that Jesus pulled him back up.

Lesson #2: Jesus’ word is truer and stronger than what we see or feel, and when we doubt that, sometimes he graciously lets us sink to help us refocus.

Trusting in Jesus and his word over our perceptions is difficult to learn. That’s why the Lord takes us through so many different faith-testing, faith-building experiences.

And when he does, it is never for just our own benefit. He’s displaying his power so others’ faith will be strengthened too. And, like the rest of the disciples, once Jesus and Peter were back in the boat, we end up saying to the Lord, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33).

Just yesterday I met with Val and was describing my strange doubts I experience every few years–I was saying I just want to get to a point where I do not have to rethink and re-remember why I chose Christ.

I’m glad he brings me through deserts of doubt, but it would be better to never go through them, especially as often as ‘every few years’.  What kind of Christian will be I be in dark places with this tendency to question?

We talked about how every time it happens, Jesus pulls me through it a different way, but after all these experiences with him, I am always surprised when I doubt, as if it should be something I’ve beat, once for all.

I told her. “I wish I didn’t have to list all the things He has done just to encourage my own heart to believe — I wish I never experienced times of darkness” —–

but WAIT – David ALWAYS listed God’s miraculous works done in the past, to remind his soul of God’s faithfulness to do what he promised..

Maybe God allows these things to happen so that we list back to him all he has done.  I used to think that listing out all of God’s works was a way for David to speak to God and remind Him to help him out.  Now I wonder if it wasn’t actually mostly a way to keep the faith when all seemed lost.

This post sounds like I’m going through darkness now, and it’s not like that..  All I know is that yesterday, I worried that at some point, in dark places, in the future, my faith would not be strong enough to carry me — and Val and I encouraged each other by coming to the conclusion that my faith is NOT strong enough — but God is.  And that is precisely what this article on desiring God is about — which I found today.  So cool, so like Him.  I am not saying it is ok to doubt him — because the one who doubts is like a wave, tossed by the wind — but I am saying that if and when I do question, God himself keeps my faith secure, and my faith is in His word, not in my faith in Him.

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Important Years

Well well.

2012 shaped up to be the most important year of my life thus far.  In 2012 I began dating Matt Olson, got engaged, had my first kiss and married my love.   I traveled to Beirut to finally intensively study Arabic, and I became an aunt for the first time.

2013 looks to be the last year of our lives here in America.   God willing, we will move to the Arab Peninsula in September 2013 to study Arabic for 2 years, and hopefully work with a small non-profit serving refugee populations and the poor in the Middle East.

Looking forward, I can imagine that somewhere between now and 2020 I will say “this is another important year” — the year we have our first baby..not sure when yet, but I’m realizing that these late 20’s, early 30’s are key years in determining the rest of our lives.  There are some decisions that are important but can be changed (major in college, occupation, etc.) and others that are more permanent (marriage, children, even language learning)…

Because of this, I think I’ll scale back on the resolutions this year, and instead do two things:

1.) Thank the Lord for his miraculous provision in 2012

2.) Draw near to Him as I make new decisions in 2013 that will impact my life, and the lives of family, friends and others around me.  Our decisions we make now, 20 and 30 somethings (and older and younger people too, i know!) are important and shouldn’t be taken lightly!!!  And I mean things like daily decisions: what to remind myself of in the morning as I lie in bed, and what to think about and do when given a few days sick at home.  God, help me make good choices in time management, family planning, money, and ministry this year.

 

 

 

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Thinking of Jesus

It’s Christmas so I’m spending time thinkin about “What does it mean to me.”  It’s a jumble of Scripture in my head now and not a LOT of conclusions but I have this:

Where was Jesus before he came?

Colossians 1:15-17 NKJV

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

John 17:5:

And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Before time began, Jesus was already with God in glory.

So why did he come?

He came to fulfill prophecy.
“I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).
“Christ has become a servant . . . to confirm the promises given to the fathers” (Romans 15:8).

He came to seek the lost.
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

He came to save the lost.
“For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost” (Matthew 18:11).

He came to serve.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45).

He came to give His life as a ransom.
“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28).

He came that men might have life more abundant.
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

He came to reveal the Father.
“Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27).
“Jesus said to him, ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father’” (John 14:9).

He came to do the will of God.
“Then He added, ‘Look, I have come to do Your will’” (Hebrews 10:9).

He came to preach.
“But He said to them, ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose’” (Luke 4:43).

He came to bring fire.
“I have come to bring fire to the earth” (Luke 12:49).
“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire . . . He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11-12).

He came to be king.
“Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world’” (John 18:37).

He came to bear witness to the truth.
“For this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37).

He came to save sinners.
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15).

He came into the world to be a faithful high priest.
“That He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God” (Hebrews 2:17).

He came to put away sin.
“Now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
“You know that He appeared in order to take away sins” (I John 3:5).
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Compare John 1:35, Leviticus 16:20-22, Isaiah 53:6, II Corinthians 5:21.

He came to destroy the works of the devil.
“The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8).
“Only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14).
“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” (John 12:31).
“For the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me” (John 14:30).

He came to send a sword.
“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, I came to bring a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household” (Matthew 10:34-36).

He came to bear our sins.
“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross” (I Peter 2:24).
“Christ . . . having been offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28).

He came to provide a pattern of holy living for Christians.
“Since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (I Peter 2:21).
“Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29).

at small group last night, i took away 3 things:

1.) Jesus came for all these reasons and left his wonderful throne…but was here 30 years not doing ministry..and then only 3 years OF ministry before leaving..

2.) Jesus was sent by God to do a difficult thing and he chose to obey his Father.

3.) It is crazy that Jesus was willing to become a child. Look at these photos I’ve attached!Image

He may have looked like this.

Image

He may have looked like this!

If Christ himself has the humility to serve, and came to become the littlest, most confused, tiny-armed person possible, forsaking all his current glory for a time — can’t I start to change the way I put myself first in thoughts and actions sometimes?

In particular, humility is becoming to me more than “not being prideful and not caring what others think.”  Jesus didn’t just experience humiliation, nakedness and emotional pain.  He was humble enough to not care even what he experienced physically in his own body, because he made every person on earth more important than he –

Phillipians 2:3:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

shoo, much to learn from tiny baby Jesus, sent on a mission to die, not looking out for his own interests because of his humble love. became so so small. it is crazy.

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Oh Christmas Tree

One of the first things Matt and I ever owned together was a fake Christmas tree.  We found it at a garage sale in Cape Cod and the owners just gave it to us, no cost –

We wouldn’t have named the tree if it hadn’t had so much character.  The whole way back to Boston it rustled in its box, and Matt would turn around and say, “Quiet back there!  We’ll get there when we get there!”

Since we’d spent time with a dog recently that we both love whose name is Mr. Boof, we decided that the tree should be named Mr. Spoof.  Fake tree = spoof.  Perfect.

It was perfect until we moved into our new, 300 Sq. Ft. apartment.  We’ve looked and thought 100 ways, and there simply is no space for Mr. Spoof.  No room in the inn.  He sits today in a box in the basement at the Lilac Manor (beneath my old home).

So what can one do when no tree will fit, but one still desires Christmas and nice pine smells  in the city?  3 things:

1.) Go to a Christmas tree lighting with 7 of your best Arabic-speaking friends, your Community Group and your husband.  All the Middle Eastern friends were unaccustomed to FREEZING wind and it was funny but sad to watch the weather ruin the experience.  Our Community Group did our thing, meeting neighbors and eating pounds of cookies.  Before my arabic speaking friends left, they asked WHY we do this (stand in the snow and sing about santa claus around a huge tree).  I gotta say, I was a little bit embarrassed.  I had assumed trees started as some pagan tradition and became a beautiful way to celebrate Christmas because Jesus had a ..I mean, because there’s an angel on —i mean..wait, why do we have trees??  :( Awkward, especially as a Christian who wants to share why we celebrate Christmas together at all.

2.) Put up sparkly lights in your apartment SOMEWHERE. ANYWHERE.  Matt hung ours around our bookshelf and down a wall.  They look cool. We may leave them up year round.  By this time, I’ve realized that I have no idea why we do trees anyways, even though I wikipedia-ed it and learned about lots of traditions, mainly from Germany and around the world…but we DO like the twinkle lights!

3.) Be very happy for your aunt has mailed you a fresh pine centerpiece from Maine!  It smells like a tree, is pretty and “Christmas-y”.

I guess the point is – I do love me some Christmas trees.  And I do hope one stands waiting in Rochester when we arrive on Dec. 21st or 22nd.  And I do love the smell and look of pine and sparkle that is involved.  And the tree does bring light and make me more thankful that God gave me another year on earth.  But…I should figure out traditions I can share in that do bring glory to God MORE than trees.

I don’t write this because I’m worried about a ‘war on CHRISTmas’ or anything like that – but simply because giving God honor and glory at this time of year — when it’s our turn to share why we celebrate, is done by acting out his love and using our words, not by going along with things we don’t understand and forgetting that some people might not know the story of Jesus yet.

There’s some seriously awesome stuff in the story of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2) that we could even miss as we read it, if we read it quickly.  I want to look closer at what I do and why and learn something about God that I never knew this year.

Now, to find a place in the apartment to stick a few ornaments..(jk).

PS: In my research I also came across this: http://www.mylcgs.org/martin_luthertree.htm — a hymn I LOVE. and this — the best explanation I’ve found personally, seems well-researched: http://www.orlutheran.com/html/chrtree.html.

PSS: In 2005, the city of Boston renamed the spruce tree used to decorate the Boston Common a “Holiday Tree” rather than a “Christmas Tree”.[64] The name change drew a poor response from the public and it was reversed after the city was threatened with several lawsuits.[65]

 

Lastly, as Martin Luther IS one of my heroes — it’s funny I had to dig so much to discover the origin of the tree—but the point of this post is basically that I should do the digging before people ask me things in the future.

:).

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Marriage

“Marriage is not mainly about being or staying in love. It’s mainly about telling the truth with our lives. It’s about portraying something true about Jesus Christ and the way he relates to his people. It is about showing in real life the glory of the gospel.”

John Piper-This Momentary Marriage

So – I have two resources for my friends to watch and read for free.  This one is a video that makes me cry (just watch it) and shows me what marriage is really about.  And this one is the best book I’ve read on marriage, to date, free online.

This Momentary Marriage spoke to me, deeply, about my calling as a wife to display God’s love to the world.  Now that I’m married, that is a huge part of my calling.  And the chapter on wives talks specifically about this section of Scripture:

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
(1 Peter 3:3-6 ESV)

The “do not fear” part spoke most to me.  I think there are different kinds of people who tend towards different sins.  There’s people who get MAD when they are frustrated and then there are people who cry and get SAD when frustrated.  There are people who tend to control and there are people who worry all the time.  I regularly realize when I am (too often) misbehaving that there is SOMETHING I am afraid of in that moment.  Maybe it is a fear of looking stupid, or a fear of physical danger or a fear of something I might do incorrectly…but it is often fear.  Women who hope in God and do good have NO fear of anything that is even legitimately frightening.  This is the key thing to learn this year before we move to a new place in the fall.

 

Oh, by the way, my wedding: smugmug.com/gallery/25742127_bnWw7X#!i=2128693027&k=wTdBMDd .

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Beirut, Arabic and strange, strange behavior.

This summer has been spent in a dorm room and classroom at the American University of Beirut.  I am doing an intensive summer Arabic program with 7 hours of class-time per day and 5 hours or so of homework each night.  On the side, I’m trying to get in shape for an upcoming wedding (mine!)..while Matt does lots of work in Boston and I send him tasks from this online wedding checklist i found (not proud of this one).

So I doubt the personal usefulness of this blog for those who enjoy personally relating to their reading. Not many gals go to a politically volatile nation for a summer to intensively learn for the weeks leading up to their own wedding.  I hope my thoughts on love, study and pride can still find meaning for you.

The shift: For those who’ve been longtime subscribers, you know how i get when I set foot on the ground in a new city.  First, I study what there is to see, then I go out and start with the “must-sees”, followed by “off-beat” things, usually with a random new friend from couch surfing.  I always get in trouble and have wild stories, and have had more near-death experiences than anyone should who is still in their mid-twenties.  But this time, it’s different.

Last night, a Friday in Beirut, my hallway was eerie — so quiet.  One girl remained, and was getting ready to go out around midnight to a local nightclub.  I remained, doing laundry and reading and skyping about wedding details with Matt.  What is wrong with me?  I think that my absolute 180 behavioral shift (from out and seeing, tasting, smelling every street and surrounding country to studying and praying) has come from 3 main areas:

1.) Love.  When you love, you do things very, very differently.  You desire things differently, you value things differently, you experience things differently.   Your priorities, hopes, needs and daily schedule is turned sideways and backwards as you navigate the rapids of loving someone, and it’s wonderful.  I find myself caring more about safety than I did before , caring more about serving Matt and less about just having a good time myself…More about thinking in terms of future (We can come back here together someday!) and less about getting as much as I can from this, now, here, in such a great place…  In short, it’s not just about me anymore and not about consuming as much as possible anymore.

Disclaimer: A lot of my adventures have been others-centered, service-oriented trips…but many were also hedonistic adventures.  There was a good mix.  And it’s not wrong to want to experience culture around you.  But there have been times I’ve known in my heart that I was doing something simply for myself and the photos I could take and things I could taste, and not for anyone’s benefit but my own.

 

2.) Learning: In college, I got in for free (whattt).  I wasn’t very interested in most things I learned, and I just wanted a degree.  Here, I’ve chosen to spend almost 5 thousand US buckaroos (my whole government stipend from a year of Americorps service) on this 7-week program so that my Arabic can get a jumpstart, so that I can serve people overseas in the hard places, so that I can understand my Muslim friends and their holy book more, so that I can relate to people who are different…I see the reasons clearer than I did in college.

I have not studied this hard in my life, and have probably never neglected so many other things before.  Some think it’s regrettable.  “Look at Beirut, its people, culture, food, etc… that is where the real experience is!”  I could not agree more.  But not now.  Now, going out and living life without focus on the work is like spending 5K on a vacation in a very icky dorm room.  NOW is a time for studying, preparation and focus, because that is how the program was crafted.  Thinking I need to fit in more outside the program now shows a little bit of a scarcity mentality: “What if I never get to see X?” And that is silly when we trust in God.

Finally, (many have prayed I would find this chapter): I am learning what the author meant in Ecclesiastes:

http://bible.cc/ecclesiastes/3-1.htm : “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”

Learning Arabic is easier when I think about the people who I hope to work with in the future.

3.) Pride and pleasing others: Beirut is a city that is absolutely beautiful, and is filled with the most beautiful people you can imagine.  The women, (and you can google this) are exquisitely decorated through extensive, various treatments, fancy outfits and detailed makeup (which is like artwork here).  They look amazing.  It leaves me feeling sometimes — well, weird.  I don’t look like them, have the time or money to spend to look like them, or the motive to look like them, but I still catch myself doing small things to change my appearance, or thinking about myself or my appearance more than usual.  I don’t love it.

Anyways, I read this morning: 

“What a weak comfort is the praise of men. Upon such a frail ledge do we mortals build our happiness. Consider: within but a few days after the Lycaonians attempted to worship Paul, they were congratulating themselves for having stoned him! (See Acts 14:11–19.) Consider: was it not the same city whose songs and praise welcomed Jesus as “King . . . gentle, and mounted on a donkey” (Matt. 21:5–9), that roared, “Crucify Him!” (Luke 23:21) less than one week later? To seek the praise of men is to be tossed upon such a sea of instability!

Part of the change this time overseas seems to be maturity I’ve gained since my early twenties.  I just don’t care as much anymore about facebook albums, stories to tell or even experiences to gather into my store of experience…God has given me a task for the summer (learn arabic while loving others) and I’m trying to get to know him more while I do it.  But there is so much immaturity remaining..the more I mature the more I can see how bad my own heart, apart from God, really is.

Now I pray against pride even as I type this, because I can see so much pride in my heart, and want so much for it to be gone — Will you pray for me to be protected from pride, particularly from caring what people think about me?   Let’s experience HIS glory, the King of the universe’s glory—–and everything else will begin to look “strangely dim”.

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” : Isaiah 58:10.

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