Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving and New Traditions

My husband and I just got home from a trip to his hometown. We were there to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family, and celebrate our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. Growing up Thanksgiving was a pretty big deal in our house. My mom begins baking days before and gets up in the wee ours of the morning to start the turkey. We always get up just in time to groggily watch the Macy’s parade. And then we wait. Smelling the wonderful turkey and hoping that the timer would soon go off signaling dinner time.

My family loves traditions and no one really likes it when those traditions are changed even the slightest bit. This year, Daniel and I are embarking on a new journey—taking two families worth of traditions and making some our own. Becoming one is, in one way, melding traditions and making them your own—your family’s. And it is bittersweet in some ways. I wasn’t with my family this year. I was with my husband’s family. He won’t be with his family at Christmas. He will be with my family. And each instance is a reminder that things will never be the same again. Neither of us will ever go back to the way it once was. And that is a good thing.

Every Thanksgiving night my family watches Miracle on 34th Street (the old one). I can’t even remember how long we have been watching it. But Daniel and I didn’t do that this year. But we did continue a tradition of his side of the family. We went shopping on Black Friday (and bought Miracle on 34th Street for $9!) and we went to a movie that night (we saw Blind Side—great movie, another post coming on that). Each holiday in these first few years will provide new traditions and experiences for us that draw us closer to one another and make our family our own.

We had a great time with his side of the family. We played games, watched football, ate food, talked, looked at pictures, and enjoyed each other. It was a good time.

The picture above is of Daniel’s family. We had Thanksgiving dinner at the nursing home where Grandma is staying. In order to be accepted in the family, each new member must eat a dessert called Date Nut Loaf. And they have to like it. Somehow, I got in without ever eating it. So after dinner I had to try it and decide whether or not I liked it. My husband captured it on film as evidence. I think the video will speak for itself.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Birthday to My Husband

Last year at this time my husband was preparing to ask my parents for permission to marry me. This year, we are married and loving it. These last, nearly six, months of marriage have been the greatest, most joyful, most sanctifying months of my life. I am so thankful to God for the man that he has given me to spend my life with. Today is my sweet man’s 28th birthday. I thought it would be fitting to honor him by jotting down just a few of the many reasons I am grateful to God for him today, and every day.

Daniel, how much do I love you? Let me count the ways!

  1. You make me love Jesus more.

  2. You love Jesus.

  3. You make me laugh.

  4. You aren’t afraid to lovingly confront me in my sin and point me to Jesus.

  5. You are thoughtful and kind.

  6. You lead us well and love doing it.

  7. You make me think and challenge me to think more clearly.

  8. You are wise.

  9. You are so dang cute (see above picture).

  10. You love Jesus.

  11. You have helped shape and refine my love for the local church.

  12. You are a hard worker.

  13. You let me talk and don’t mind it (which is a big deal in my book, because I talk a lot. A whole lot!).

  14. You challenge me to love lost people.

  15. You love the kids that God has given you to minister to.

You are a good man, Daniel Reissig. I love being your wife and look forward to the years God gives us. Happy Birthday, babe!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today, my Dad turns 50. In today’s world, growing up with a father around is not always normal. Growing up with a Christian father is even less common. Every year I am more and more grateful for the Dad that God has given me. Here are just a few of the many reasons I am thankful for my Dad today (and every day).

  1. He doesn’t take himself too seriously—which in turn makes him a pretty funny guy. His humility allows him to laugh at himself, and this taught my brothers and me to be able to laugh at ourselves.
  2. He is kind and compassionate. He cares about the fatherless. I can still remember his care and kindness towards friends who had no fatherly influence in their lives.
  3. He is a hard worker. He has always provided for our family. We always had food on the table (due to Mom’s work in cooking it and Dad’s work in making the living). We always had our needs met.
  4. He loves us and we know it. There was never any doubt in my mind that he loved Mom, me, and my brothers. One of the most vivid pictures of his love for me was when, even in my rebellion against him, he traveled across the country to help me move and took care of me. This was a huge picture of the Gospel to me.
  5. He is always there. In a day when dad’s leave and our unreliable, a dad who is there is no small thing. He cares about the details of my life, from my grades all the way through school to how my job is going now.

As I watch my brothers grow into Christian men and become fathers themselves I see markings of my Dad’s influence in their life—and I am grateful. They are the men they are in part to my Dad’s life being lived out before them. Just like Mom, you are leaving a legacy too, Dad. You are leaving a legacy of godliness and manhood that, Lord willing, will be passed on to future Tarter generations. I love you, Dad. Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Running The Race I Am Given

Last week I had the opportunity to hear Matt Chandler speak in Southern Seminary’s chapel. I have listened to his church’s podcasts, but had yet to hear him live. I was excited at the chance. He preached from Hebrews 11 and applied “running the race set before us” in a way that I don’t remember hearing before. God knew I needed it. It got right to my heart.

He said that the race we are running is exactly what God has for us. And he connected it to the previous verses, where the writer of Hebrews describes the different paths these great cloud of witnesses walked. But each path was God ordained—whether it was shutting the mouth of lions or being sawn in two. He urged us to stop trying to be something we are not, and be who God made us to be. He challenged us to not do ministry for our own glory and gain, but for the glory of our Christ. Dissatisfaction with our race—our path—is idolatrous.

It is a daily struggle to not compare my race with others. It is a daily struggle to be satisfied with the road that God has me on. So often we see people around us, seemingly more successful, happier, more put together, more spiritual, more fill-in-the-blank, and we covet. We want what they have, and we look at what we have and resent it.

The race that I am running right now is the race that God has given me. It is not an accident. And sometimes that is the hardest truth to swallow, especially when the race is arduous and painful. In the earlier verses the writer tells us about the saints who ran the race that God gave them—and for some it was devastatingly painful, I am sure.

I know that I don’t often want to run the race I am given. I look at people running next to me and think they seem a lot more fit to be running this thing than me. I look at people running behind me and long for the days when I had it like they do now. I look at the people ahead of me and think their path is so much better than mine because they have already gotten through the hard stuff. But the grass is always greener on the other side, right?

I covet these things, but I have no idea what it took to get them there. Maybe they were sawn in two before they could ever close the mouth of a lion. Maybe they weren’t. The point is, comparison is never helpful. It is actually destructive. It is discouraging and it takes my eyes off of the race.

My old roommates keep a Bethlehem Star Article (church newsletter), written by Pastor John, up on the refrigerator at all times. It is from three years ago, but I keep coming back to it when I feel the urge to compare my race to the ones around me. Pastor John reminded us that to really love is to stop comparing. I find myself repeating it often, especially when I am overwhelmed by the comparisons warring in my own mind.

The race is hard. God did not promise ease and comfort. But he did promise to give us strength and his presence every step of the way. This is more comforting than any temporal comfort could ever be.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Loving Children in Jesus Name

For nearly nine years I have been supporting Walter with Compassion International. For nearly eight years I have been supporting Juan Carlos with Compassion International. Both of them are from Honduras. When I started supporting them they were little boys. Now, they are not-so-little-boys anymore. In the beginning I felt compelled to support them because I wanted to help children, which is a good cause. But I didn't fully fully understand why it was important to help them in the first place. And in recent years, to my shame, I have been a "money-only" sponsor. Yeah, I give them money every month, but I don't give them much of anything else. The really sad thing is, I only think about it when the direct deposit goes through every month.

But this week something changed. I was reminded of why sponsorship is so important. I was reminded of the plight of children throughout the world. And I was reminded in a fresh way how important it is for us to love children in Christ's name. My friend, Molly went to El Salvador with Compassion this week and blogged while she was there. All week I was broken over my selfishness in not spending more time caring for our Compassion children. I was broken over the world that so many children live in. But I was encouraged. I was encouraged by the work that Compassion is doing. God is doing good things in the lives of these families, for the joy of the nations.

Molly's posts made me feel compelled to action. I want to be a better sponsor. Pray for me. And read her posts. They are worth your time. Now I better go. I have some letters to write to Walter and Juan Carlos!

Here are all of her posts. Post 1 Post 2 Post 3 Post 4 Post 5

Thursday, November 12, 2009

All I Really Want For Christmas

"All I Really Want For Christmas" by Steven Curtis Chapman is one of my favorite non-hymn Christmas songs. I have been listening to it on repeat for a few weeks now. It is such a sweet song about a child who just wants a family for Christmas. He can think of many things that he would want, but this is a need. This is what he needs for Christmas. I can't listen to the song without tears welling up in my eyes. It is a true song. There are many children who will spend this Christmas without a family. Here is a link to the song. May God use it to make your heart break for the orphan this Christmas, and be compelled to love orphans, too.

You can watch the video on YouTube here. I couldn't figure out how to post it on the blog from YouTube. If anyone has any ideas, feel free to tell me how!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Year-Round Christmas Music

I love Christmas music. It seems like every year I start listening to it earlier and earlier. Next thing I know, I will be listening in July—which is not a bad idea if you ask me.

I have often wondered why we don’t listen to Christmas music year round. It makes sense that we only sing about rocking around a Christmas tree when we put the tree up. But does it really make sense to only sing about the birth of our Savior one season of the year?

The lyrics to some of the most beloved Christmas hymns are packed full of truths about God that are true every Sunday. We don’t sing “In Christ Alone” only on Easter Sunday. Why not sing “Joy to the World” in May?

Perhaps part of the reason that we only sing Christmas music in December is that we only think about the incarnation when the Christmas tree goes up. I know I am prone to this. I get excited about all things Christmas, and Jesus coming to earth to save sinners like me is just a portion of the excitement—not the reason for the excitement. But really, it should floor me. It should humble me. It should make me thankful. It should make me joyful.

God came to earth.

And not in fanfare and bright lights, like our Christmas ideas so often make us think. He came as a baby. He came in humility. He came to a dirty manger. And this is our great hope. It should make us sing. Christmas shows us that the Cross is coming; that our salvation is coming. Without Christmas, there is no Cross.

Now I like some good, old-fashioned “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” but nothing make my heart sing like the words “born that men no more may die!” I am all for the traditional, light-hearted seasonal music. But that is all that is, really. It’s about a season, not an event.

So what does it really matter if I listen to “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in June? It should be my heart’s cry as I wait for the second-coming of my Risen King.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Interview with Carolyn McCulley

Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley is one of the most helpful books I have read in the last year. If you haven't read it yet, you should. Last week CBMW published an interview that I did with her. You can read the interview here:

Part 1 and Part 2