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Why Marriage?

This past Saturday hubby and I were blessed to attend a wedding. I love weddings. There is something so deeply beautiful and holy about a wedding. In fact, the Bible even refers to the church as the “bride of Christ.” Sounds a little weird until you watch a wedding and it hits you like a ton of bricks, just how much Jesus loves his church. And you…

Jesus loves you. He stands, absolutely beaming, as he watches every step that you take while being guided by the Father straight into his arms. He takes you by the hands and vows his faithfulness, in your sickness and in health, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, never to part.

He doesn’t place a ring on your finger but writes your very name on the palm of his hands… Scripture actually says all this.

And he lifts the veil… Oh, my favorite part- when the groom lifts the veil and kisses his bride… Jesus does that. He lifts the veil we wear over our mind and our heart. It has to be lifted, for it is impossible to be truly intimate wearing a veil.

And no, there is nothing physical or sexual involved with intimacy with Jesus. (Side note- I remember the first time I heard a nun talk about her joy over the thought of the intimacy she would have with Jesus in heaven and it totally freaked me out because I absolutely didn’t get it. My mind was veiled and my thoughts perverted. And of course now I am about to sound like the nun… Go figure.)

To hopefully help clarify, intimacy with God is so much greater than the sexual act of intimacy we see within the marriage. It is the beauty of a naked soul, a soul that desires for God to come into the most vulnerable, hidden, places and cover them with his love. Intimacy with God is what causes new life to begin forming in us. Our dreams, our passions, our hope, our very being all begin to form with new life. It all comes from intimate times when we draw close to God in prayer, in worship, in word, and in praise.

So why marriage? Why vows? Why taking a name? Perhaps because when done, we catch a glimpse of God’s love for us. He waits for us. He desires a covenant. He desires to gives us a new name. He too, will throw a banquet for us, and desires to dance with us in his heavenly dance.

Hubby and I never danced at the wedding reception. We took advantage of the opportunity to catch up with friends instead. But what we did do was even better. That night, we pulled up the same song the bride and groom danced to and we danced away in our kitchen. Just he and I, dancing that sacred dance of two souls, two wills, two separate beings, tied together and made one in a covenant that only grows sweeter with time. Dancing there I couldn’t help but consider the awesomeness of marriage, and the awesomeness of Christ’s love for his church.

 

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Let us Hear the Sound…

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So this moment tonight… this moment touched my heart more than I could probably express, but I will try.

Lately I have been feeling a little heart sick. I hear from friends and loved ones going through some seriously hard things. I try to talk to share with them just how much God really loves them but all too often the response is, “I don’t really feel his presence.” One friend recently worded it this way, “There are so many things when I look back at my life, when I think of them, I know it had to be God. He helped me get through them. But I don’t know that I have actually ever heard his voice. I don’t feel his presence. I try to go to church. I have tried to read the Bible. I just don’t feel him.”

Been there. Many times.

And so tonight I watched our busy, little boy toddling all over the place. Then it came to a point where he came close to his daddy who was studying and in that moment my hubby took off the headset he had been wearing. He placed it on our son’s head and his eyes lit up so big. He heard the sound of the worship music. He heard what his daddy had been hearing all along but none of us could hear. He became practically entranced, staring awestruck at his daddy for some time like a whole new world had opened up in his soul.

His sisters tried to come by and take the headset and he aggressively pushed them away. And it struck me…

It became my prayer really… God, let us hear your song. Let us hear it so loudly that we hear and want nothing else. Let us be so awestruck with the sound of you in our soul that we aggressively begin blocking out those things that try to grab it away. God, let us hear what you hear…

Praying it silently, I walked away to tend to other things, came back into the room ten minutes or so later only to see our son still sitting with his daddy. He wasn’t budging. He was locked in, totally focused on what his daddy was focused on and totally at peace. Snapped a picture. Smiled. Snapped some more.

And so tonight my prayer is simple- for those who are so needing to hear your voice tonight, God… Would you put upon their soul the sound of your love? God shield out the sound of everything else. Let them feel your presence. Wrap your arm around them. May their thoughts be your thoughts. Help us to hear you, to aggressively fight in our mind against the things that try to grab away the sound of you. For you are real. And you are with us. Help us to wander close to you and stay at your side.

Amen.

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While He May be Found?

So it was nearing bedtime. I gathered the children together hoping to sit them all down and read scriptures to them. In my heart I envisioned them all huddled up together, listening intently to every precious word. But it didn’t go down like that. Not at all.

Our oldest stayed focused, but the others starting quickly drifting, minds far off from me and the words I was reading. They weren’t interested. They were getting rowdy, having a blast with each other, with no regard to me or what was being read.

Put simply, they weren’t interested. No movie? No cool music? No funny YOUTube video? No silly dance or dramatic reading? Did I really think my calm voice alone could hold their attention? I had hoped. But it didn’t.

These little ones that can sit glued to a tv for an hour couldn’t hold their focus for 26 scriptures… 26 single sentences. I ended up calling it quits on the whole thing. Turned the lights off and sent them to bed. And they were upset and begging, “We want to hear! We want to hear!” But the time to hear had passed. It was lights out, and hopefully we could try again tomorrow… Hopefully.

And my mind is now drifting back to that 19th verse we read: “S: Seek ye The Lord while he may be found.”

It has always been a verse that kind of shakes me up… After all what does that mean, “while he may be found”? Isn’t God always with us? Can’t we always seek him? Well, yes… And no.

Because here is thing, if you truly believe the Bible is true, there is this one concept that you can’t quite shake (no matter how much you want to) and it is this: One day you will die and you will either be eternally with God or eternally separated from him. That’s it. It’s all said and done. The time to seek God passed. And that time to seek God is now.

And yeah, there are so many more “exciting” things to do isn’t there? Cool movies and funny YOUTube videos to watch. Your favorite football team to cheer on. Friends and family to fill that space with no problem at all. It’s all great really… Until it’s light out and then I fear, for many it will be “I want to hear! I want to hear!”

“Seek ye The Lord while he may be found.”

Yes, seek him now.

Because His gentle voice will not be around forever, for those who choose to not seek it now.

 

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“How Else Can I Help?”

Our nine year-old emptied the dishwasher late tonight, loaded the few dirty dishes that were in the sink, and wiped down the counters. His brothers and sisters were asleep or nearly in their rooms. But not him. He was wide awake.

He looked over into our laundry room.

I see you have a lot of laundry to fold there,” he said.

And I don’t want you to have to do this too…

And besides, (big brother) doesn’t really like to unload the dishes in the morning. So I will unload them…

But will you still tell him he has to do it in the morning, mom?”

He smiled after asking that question.

Perhaps he smiled at the thought of his brother discovering the job done.

But more than likely, smiling at the plan to make his brother huff at nothing at all.

He asked again, “You will ask him to do it, right, mom?”

Yes,” I answered and smiled, convinced of his clever little plan.

He smiled big.

He then had asked how else he could help me.

I was amazed by his energy.

It was nearly ten o’clock at night. I was becoming exhausted. My husband was also working late. So my options were to either send him to bed or accept the help in the form it was in. I accepted his help.

He then proceeded to help me load up another load of laundry, match socks and fold the last of the basket that was shoulder high before he started cleaning the kitchen. We got done folding what needed folded.

Do you want me to push this to your room?

I stood in awe.

Where do you get all your energy?” I asked him.

He looked up, smiled and shrugged his shoulders and answered,

God.”

He then pushed the full basket of clothes across the kitchen floor, passed the dining table and into my and my husband’s bedroom.

His answer touched my heart more than he could ever know.

Because it has been a busy year for our family and it isn’t over. And the nights and days get so long. And sometimes, I just get so tired, if not physically purely emotionally, and yet in my spirit I know that God is with us, that his strength is sufficient, that God is not weary…

And as I watched that boy bent over, pushing across our house a loaded laundry basket of clothes he helped to fold, my heart caught a glimpse of God in our house.

Jesus, you aren’t weary, are you?

And you are truly here, aren’t you?

His answer?

I saw it on the smile of a nine year-old boy walking back into our kitchen, and heard it in his young, vibrant, voice,

“How else can I help?”

 

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When Hope Dies

We were driving home as we usually do. Pulling down the last stretch of our street, I noticed a butterfly that appeared to cross our path. I hoped I hadn’t hit it.

We get home, the boys started to make their way into the house, walking past the front of our van. Suddenly they stopped. I heard a gasp. I became fearful, immediately thinking that I hit one of our children. I called out, “What is it? What is it?” The boys replied, “It’s a butterfly.”

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Our oldest son grabbed her from the grill of our van. “She’s hurt, mama. I think her legs got burned.”

Indeed she was hurt, and three of her legs were completely missing. He gently held her in his hands.

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He walked around with her on his finger for sometime. Her wings would open and close. Her head would lift up and down. “Do you think she will be okay, mama?” “I really don’t know. She has lost three legs and I don’t know if she can fly. I really don’t know if she will live, but she sure is beautiful..”

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Seconds passed then minutes, and after sometime of him being outside just holding her, our son came in the house with the butterfly in a box. “I named her Hope.”

And hope he did.

He stood there just watching her. “I wanted to shield her from the wind. The wind was knocking her over.”

She seemed worse off inside in the box. She was trapped and probably cold. Her little wings barely moving now.

I stood there watching her and watching our son. Tears filling his eyes his voice crackles, “I don’t want her to die, mama.”

It was then that it hit me so hard, the overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t just looking at a boy hurting for a hurt butterfly, I was catching a glimpse of a savior. Oh that we could only see how Jesus hurts when we hurt.

And so I asked him if I could take his picture while he cried, explaining to him how he reminded me of Jesus in that moment. He just nodded, and tried to wipe away the tears.

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There was our son. He was so much larger and so much more powerful than the little bug in the box. His lifespan would most likely far exceed that of any bug, let alone this bug. Why did he care? Why did he hope? Perhaps because Hope had touched him.

And perhaps it was Hope’s fault for crossing into where she shouldn’t cross. But that is what hope does. Hope intersects us. Hope collides with us. Hope holds on to us in the middle of the gravest conditions and makes us want to hold on longer to life. And when we feel the hold of hope, we feel the heart of God.

Hope was looking weak. I suggested our son take Hope outside back into the sunshine to warm up, and so he did.

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Our son gently opened the wire fencing that was placed to protect Hope from predators. He carefully coaxed Hope from the box onto his hand and removed her from her cage.
He held Hope once again in his hands.

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Our son knelt there next to her open cage with Hope in his hands. I stared at him for some time, moved.

Because isn’t this what Jesus does? He finds us in our brokenness, holds us, protects us, and then sets us free. I imagined Hope flying off right there from his hands. But Hope did not fly. All Hope did was hold on. And after nearly two hours of Hope holding onto our son, it became more and more clear, that Hope was dying. The slightest wind would knock her over. Dying hope is often knocked over by the slightest wind.

Our son placed Hope on a flowering bush in our yard. She rested there for sometime. Come evening she was still alive but hardly opening her wings anymore. Our son left her on the bush overnight hoping to find her gone in the morning.

In the morning, gone she was, but not as our son had hoped. Her body was lifeless. Hope had died.

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Our son began to cry. He began to question and get angry, “Why did she have to die? Why does everything here on this earth have to die? Why couldn’t she live?”

Oh, that I was wise enough to answer all of life’s mysteries. I closed my teary eyes and responded, “I don’t know. Sometimes the hurt is so bad, that the greatest way to be healed is to die. That is what the cross is all about. Jesus took on all our pain and shame, our sickness and infirmities, and there on a cross he died so we wouldn’t have to… At least not physically… But when it comes to people, the hurt we are stuck in has to die, in order for us to truly live. As for your butterfly, Hope isn’t trapped in a body that is suffering anymore.”

“You mean she can’t feel this?” He asked opening her wings.

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“No. She isn’t in that body anymore.”

He thought on the hard truth for sometime. I found myself thinking long and hard on it too.

There we were, the two of us, staring at a dead butterfly. And yes, I’ll admit it, I was also struggling a bit, “Lord, really? You let a butterfly named ‘Hope’ die? My son hoped so hard for it to live and still it died. How does that build his faith? How does that build his hope?”

His answer?

It was written long ago. I was reminded of it as I walked in our kitchen after watching our children bury Hope:

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Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
New King James Version (NKJV)

All the things we hold here will eventually flutter away.

And if we place our hope only in them, and make them the center of our joy, our hope and joy will flutter away as well.

All we can do is care for the things that have been placed in our hands while they are in our hands, understanding that eventually we will have to place them back in the hands of The Lord. In Him is our Hope. In Him is the promise of life eternal.

When Hoped died we placed her body back into the dust from which we all were made.

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We gathered rocks and a beautiful flower and laid them above where her body was laid to rest, as some small way to make a record of the gift that she was for the short time we had her… Some small way to say thank you. We imagined her flying in heaven above where true hope is found.

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Should something you placed your hope in be gone today… Should your heart be hurting and your soul wrestling, I am praying for you… Writing this to remind you, that when hope dies, hope still lives.

May you give those hurts to Jesus and make room for new life. May you be filled with hope today.

 

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“Don’t eat that.”

“You should have this down by now.”

“Didn’t you tell them not to do that? They don’t listen to you, and everyone sees it.”

“Look at all of you. What a disgrace, a far cry from the Duggards by far.”

“What were you thinking? A wise mother wouldn’t do that.”

“Why did God choose you to be a mom anyway? You clearly aren’t good at it. He picked the wrong person for this job.”

“Have another one? Ha! You can’t even control the ones you have! You need to quit now, pack it up before it gets even worse, because you know it is going to get even worse. You are barely afloat. Have anymore and you are going to sink the whole ship.”

“They behaved like that in church! Shameful. All that work getting them there for what? Just stay home. Save yourself the work and embarrassment.”

“You act so happy and blessed. Look at you. This is the real you. You are miserable. You are a fake and have no business ministering to anyone.”

Words whispered from an all too familiar voice. He loves to spew his poison in the midst of the seeming chaos. He speaks as clearly as The Lord, yet his words never bring peace. He brings doubt. He brings defeat. He comes with accusations and with lies disguised as truth. He often comes camouflaged as your very own thoughts. At times his voice is so similar to The Lord, but don’t be fooled. His words if ingested lead straight to death. Ask Adam. Ask Eve.

Where good mixes with evil, that is where you find him. Where truth becomes blurred by lies. And God has said, “Don’t eat that.” Yet the enemy slides in whispering, “Eat… Listen… Believe.”

Oh yes, the enemy wants you to be believe. He wants you to believe his words that you aren’t good enough. He wants you to believe that you should have everything in control. He wants you to believe you are a fake. He wants you to believe you are a failure. He wants you to believe you can’t… You just can’t, and furthermore, you shouldn’t. He wants you to believe that others are against you. He wants to isolate you. He wants you to believe that you will never measure up. And most of all, he wants you to believe that God was wrong. God was wrong when he made you and wrong when he chose you. Believe that and you will doubt everything God has said.

Satan whispered to Eve, “Did God really say?” And his whisper hasn’t changed.

Satan lied when he said, “You won’t die.” And he still is the speaker of lies.

Eve was deceived, but you need not be.

Adam ate freely and then blamed God.

Don’t you.

Don’t ingest the enemies lies.

A prayer for today:

“Heavenly Father, we ask that you give us a discerning ear. Help us to recognize your voice and the voice of the enemy. You said your sheep know your voice. Help us to know it. Help us to daily filter the words that approach our mind and heart, for every word is like a seed, capable of producing fruit. May the words we ingest be your words. May they plant and produce much fruit. May the words of the enemy find no place to take root. May we spew them out of our heart. May they wither and die and produce no fruit. Help us to remember that you desire to do mighty things through us, far more than we could ever imagine or comprehend. Help us to be at peace with who we are in you. Truth rise up. Joy rise up. Light arise. Darkness flee. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 

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To My Husband

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It was supposed to be a beach, sunset wedding… That is what we planned out over the course of six short days. And we weren’t even going to have a ceremony. We were going to go to the courthouse, get married and “make things right in the eyes of The Lord.”

That is what we were told we needed to do, by the mystical, “tennis court angel.” That is what I like to call her, even though you and I both know she wasn’t really an angel. And she wasn’t really “mystical.” She was just a woman who followed what she called the “leading of The Lord” late on a September night and found you exactly where The Lord told her you would be. She led you to salvation, and you then led me, but there was one thing she mentioned that we needed to do in order to “make things right”… Get married.

And it sounded crazy, stupid even… Believing some random woman was truly “Led by The Lord”…. “Having” to get married to “get right with The Lord”?

But we went with it. You followed the leading of a woman you truly believed was placed by God to intercept our world and forever change everything. You made the choice to follow Jesus and “make things right” as you felt you were being led to do. And I… Not so convinced… Simply made the choice to follow you. If you were going to follow Jesus, so was I. I would follow you anywhere… God knew that .

So we went to the courthouse on a Monday morning in order to “make things right,” if only on paper.

We walked out of that courthouse, ages nineteen and twenty-one, with a marriage license in hand. It was surreal to say the least.

And we would have gone to the court, but Tia and Tio said that wasn’t good enough and so we began planning a wedding.

Sunset. On the Beach. Hawaiian style. Standing room only… Lots of room.

We lined up a family friend who was a notary to perform our ceremony. We began thinking about flowers and favors… Little chocolates with our picture on it…. A cake with seashells, which we later learned was a bad idea.

(Mental Note: Real seashells on a cake is a bad idea. Also bad at the bottom of two betta bowls. Our poor wedding fish… Rough start but they survived! And so have we… Taking lots of “mental notes” along the way).

We planned for awesome homemade food cooked by your brother, a reception at Tio and Tia’s… It was all planned.

We invited every shocked friend we could think of and family. But being dead-set to get married soon, many, including our own parents were not able to attend.

We got as much marital counseling as we could in a week and a lot of prayer… God bless Pastor R and K-A for believing in us.

Come wedding day we ran late. Yes, late to our own wedding. Our “sunset” wedding became a pitch black wedding with only the headlights from family cars shedding light in the dark. And then half-way into the thing, it started. Little drops of rain. Wind getting stronger. After we both said “I do” it felt like the skies broke open and the wind came full blast. Sand whipped up from all around us. And our little flower girl, took off running. I can still remember the sight of her screaming and running off. Perhaps my favorite memory from that night.

It was so perfectly imperfect. So unpredicted. Planned and yet nothing really going according to plan. Light in the darkness. A name given. A name taken. Two vows made in the presence of heaven and earth. Holy and beautiful moments, and other moments that made us want to run…

Yeah- that is marriage in a nut shell.

But the secret to enduring the storms has remained the same, lock eyes, lock lips, and laugh in the rain.

And as I write this, it is 13 years. 13 years from that precious day when we “made things right”… So much has changed and yet so much has stayed the same.

To my husband- I love you. I thank God for you. Thank you for being “crazy” enough to step in faith, over and over and over again. Thank you for loving me, truth-be-told at times enduring me, with relentless, crazy, God-given, love. Thank you for locking your eyes on Jesus and leading me to do the same.

 

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