We’re Homeowners!

Ever had a moment when stress turned you into a different person? All of the sudden, you go momentarily insane and become somewhat irrational? I’m not proud of these moments, but truth is I’m human…and femaleand pregnant.

My doctor keeps telling us that having a baby is one of four big stressors of life and that we should not pair it with another big stressor, such as buying a home. On measures of stress, it’s good advice. My husband and I are first-time homeowners and it is truly amazing how God worked out these details! We are so excited! Here’s a photo of our little home:

But as for the stress…it’s there. Because along with the great charm of an old house comes the plumbing, and the heating/air, and the electrical wiring, and the kitchen repairs, and the walls, and the floors…so much work to do and to organize on top of working full-time and trying to support my beloved husband as he goes through his second block of medical school. Oh – and on top of being pregnant and not being able to do most of the work myself.  ;)

We are extremely blessed by God’s provision in this home and astounded by His grace and how He worked it all together!! But it is busy. And it is stressful.

You know what I love about seasons like these though? In midst of the decision-making and the budgeting and the multiple gas leaks and the foreign language of loans, plumbing, electrical, and everything-else-home-related, the opportunity exists to cling to God as my helper and refuge, to commit myself to His word, and to experience His peace on a whole new level. It exists just as much as the opportunity to stress out and become momentarily crazy.

And those moments, when I feel the weight of stress overwhelm me, I turn to God and surrender it all to Him. I choose to trust Him. I choose to wait in Him. And the cares of this world grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace…

I hope that as you encounter those opportunities to stress out and worry over life, you instead take the opportunity to trust in Him and submit all to Him – your burdens, your fears, your attitude and emotions. Because, trust me, I get it – in that moment the stress is so real and largely consuming, but we are not to be consumed by the flesh, we are to be consumed by Him. And I can testify that HE turns really stressful situations into peace-filled, God-encountering situations as we turn to Him.

Be blessed in whatever busy season you are in, friends. Take the opportunity to know Him more intimately as your refuge, strength, hope, redeemer, provider, and friend.

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears…The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Ps. 34: 4, 7-8

Unearned Kindness

How far will God’s kindness go? His mercy and graciousness toward me is so undeserved, and sometimes I wonder, when will it stop? I can’t do anything to deserve it. And yet sometimes I fear that if I don’t “do better” in my Christian walk, He’ll take it away.

I still have so much to learn of Him, and I recognize that these thoughts only expose how much I don’t know of His grace or of His character.

Because really, does our good works earn us the grace and blessing He pours into our lives?

There is no doubt that God rewards those who seek Him, so I’m not advocating a spiritual laziness because God’s grace will cover our lack of discipline. But in no way does our attempts toward holiness merit His grace or kindness or mercy. Rather His kindness and mercy is meant to lead us toward greater holiness.

I feel increasingly undeserving of His goodness; and I am undeserving. But because of His goodness, I am led continually toward repentance. I hope that as we realize the magnitude of His grace, we do not trample on it in pride or hardness of heart, but we repent, turn to Him, and love Him because He first loved us.

“…Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4

“…[He] saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…” 2 Timothy 1:9

Thank you, God, that you alone are worthy. And that your kindness to us through Jesus has changed us and given us hope beyond compare. I pray we’d look to you and respond to your kindness and give glory to the work of Jesus who has clothed us with His righteousness. Amen.

Seeking Him in the New Year

It’s a new year. But it’s also just another day, another opportunity to seek the face of God. And I hope – I pray – we do not pass the opportunity that alone has power to transform and to redeem, to give hope and to restore life. May we be filled with a knowledge of Jesus Christ, of His death, resurrection, and return, so that our lives would be wholly consumed by the glory of God.

“Oh Godstrip us of the meager desires that consume us day-to-day and put an ache in our hearts for your will to be done, for your kingdom to come, for your glory to wholly transform us so that we no longer live for ourselves or for this world, but that our life would be found completely in you, Jesus, and in no way apart from you.

I pray your church would be a people redeemed by the blood of Jesus so that His work would not go futile in our lives.

May we not diminish the work and name of Jesus Christ by not allowing it to completely redeem and transform our broken lives, to conquer the sin and death we’ve lived in. But may the work and name of Jesus Christ be magnified in us as we surrender every facet of our lives to Him so that the wholeness of His work and power and life may be embodied in us.”

Be filled with His truth, brothers and sisters, and seek His face today. It is in His Name – the Name above all Names – that we pray, Amen.

Someone Was Missing

I sat at my desk and wrote a card to my mom for her birthday. After thoughtful words were written, I mindlessly signed the names I’ve signed for the last five and a half years: “With Love, Mike and Brandee.”

But this time, God filled my mind with an impressionable message: someone’s missing. It caught me by surprise but I couldn’t ignore its meaning. Is our family incomplete? Is it not supposed to be just the two of us anymore?

OK, this was a big deal – and might I mention – a deal outside of our previous plans to wait another year. I couldn’t tell Mike the details right away, but when I saw him the next day, he shared a strange dream he had. About what? Oh, just about us having a BABY.

Ever get the idea God is trying to tell you something?

So we prayed about it and decided to wait a few more months…and then three weeks later, we were pregnant. I’m thankful God’s plans always prevail. And now we wait joyously for the arrival of our baby in mid June!!

Dear baby,
As your life begins
May your eyes be opened to the grace of God.
May you know Him, even now,
As the Creator who came to give you life.
Oh sweet baby, we love you,
Just as He created you.
His hand covers your life,
Look to Him for purpose.
For He created you with divine wisdom.
And this we know for sure is true,
That sweet baby, someone was missing,
And that someone was you.

.

We can’t wait to meet you, baby!!

.

Money, Marriage, & Real Life

I recently sat down with a soon-to-be college graduate who asked me about the greatest financial lesson I’ve learned since I got married and graduated college.

Without pausing, I answered: I learned to tithe.

My sudden response surprised me. I wasn’t trying to be spiritual; God knows it’s been a lesson learned. But it’s a lesson that kept my heart in check and put my treasure in Christ alone.

I went into marriage with a somewhat solid understanding on financial success: live within my income, spend wisely, and save as much as I’m able. Of course, it isn’t always that simple, which I quickly learned as a young, newly-married college student. But I grew up with a dad who was very wise with his money and taught me basic financial principles that I took seriously. So granted, I went into marriage with a solid conviction to live within my means, even if it meant living with less than what all my friends were able to have. Sure, it kept me and my husband humble. We weren’t trying to match what others were able to spend, and we weren’t pretending to. We just wanted to live humbly with what God provided us and be content with His provision.

Of course, I admit that I’m kind of overly frugal. So it wasn’t until Mike and I got married that I slowly learned to give to God, and to give cheerfully. My husband has the gift of giving and a deep conviction to give to God. Me…not so much, not initially. Our conversations early in marriage began like this:

Husband: I prayed about our tithe, how much do you think we should give this month?

Me: Oh dear, he remembered. I hoped he’d forget. We don’t have the money to tithe! Well, what’s the LEAST we can do…hmm…(numbers rolling through my head)…uuggh…I guess whatever 10% is.

Husband: Pray about it. I think we should give more.

Me: !!! MORE?!?!?!

I know…my heart was ugly. So I’d humble myself, pray, and of course, God would give me a number. I’d write it down; Mike wrote his down; pass and exchange paper; and waalaa…they’d often be the same! And if they weren’t, I submitted to his number because let’s face it, his heart was beautiful and my heart…well, not so much.

So now, five years later, God’s changed my heart and taught me more about godly stewardship. I’ve learned to give of our first-fruits, not our leftovers. I’ve learned to give enough that my flesh cringes as I release its grip from my hands (and heart) and drop it in the offering bag. I’ve learned to give enough that I have to trust God. And I’ve learned that God always…always…provides (what we need, not always what we want). Because at the end of the month when I did the budgeting, the numbers didn’t always make sense, they didn’t add up, but somehow we came out even.

Is tithing an end-all to our financial struggles? No. I think godly stewardship is about a whole lot more than tithing, but I think that tithing is at its core. God promises a blessing with it; and He blessed us. Ok, ok…God blessed Mike, but I am his other half. ;) So thank you, Mike, for your faithfulness to God and for teaching me what it looks like to give from your heart. And thank you God – for challenging my heart, for changing my heart, and for giving us abundantly more than we need. Though the world may call us poor, we are rich and overflowing.

What financial lessons have you learned?

How I Live My Days

“Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:19

About a year before I got married, I remember struggling in my faith and living my days for myself instead of for Jesus. I wasn’t in the Word and my prayer life was dull. I had given my life to follow Jesus four years prior to this, but became relaxed in my daily Christian walk.

This passage comes after Jesus’ teaching of Christians being the salt and light of the earth…on us doing the will of God and being Jesus to the world. Our Christianity is not lived out merely in our declaration that Jesus is the Son of God, but in our daily submission and commitment to Him as Lord. The difference may be one who relaxes God’s Words without proper submission to it and one who is a devoted follower.

As I read this passage in the ESV translation, the verb relaxes caused me to ponder it a little more seriously. Other translations say it as whoever breaks, but that word is literally translated as one who loosens or does away with something.

Truth is, we choose to disobey God when we relax the application of His Word in our daily lives, when we become careless toward it, when we loosen its grip on our hearts. The result is the same: we break His commands.

How does this happen? Though many things contribute to it, the underlying cause is this: It happens when we stop seeking Him through His Word and knowing Him through prayer. Satan wants us to relax God’s commands. Even if we’re believers, he’ll distract us so that our days are not lived for Jesus. And then what? Consider this quote…

 “How we live our days is how we live our lives.” -Annie Dillard

Friends, each day matters. Do not relax even the least of His commands. Obey and teach others to obey. This is the purpose of our lives…and it must be lived out as the purpose of our days.

Rags to Riches

I am unworthy to glance upon your Glory. I am unworthy to bow before your throne, O Holy God. I come before you as a tainted rag: stained, undignified, and lowly. A guilty sinner unable to wash what’s been stained, and there is no place for filth in your kingdom, for sin in your holy presence.

And yet you beckon me…

You beckon me into the inner courts of your kingdom, to approach your throne of Grace. Not because of who I am but because of who you are. Though I stood as a tainted rag, you washed my filth and you covered me with the righteousness of Jesus. You gave me life when I deserved death. You made me rich with the knowledge of Jesus, my Savior.

And that is the astounding and unparalleled grace of God.

He ate with the lowly. He embraced the lepers. He visited the outcasts. He gave sanity to the demon possessed. He stopped everything to heal a peasant girl without a name. He didn’t condemn the harlot. He forgave the sinner. He called us heirs and gave us life.

He bore our cross, and we wear His robe.

Jesus – I love you because you first loved me. I give you my life because you first gave me yours. I humble myself because you humbled yourself, and you are God. Though what I have to offer is nothing, I give it to you.