Friday, December 24, 2010

All Time Favorite Christmas Memory

Every year, for as long as I can remember, I always asked my dad if we could open a present on Christmas Eve. To which he always promptly replied, "You can open all tonight or all tomorrow. It's all or nothing." It always killed me as I ached with excitement to open presents!

Two years ago today Daniel and I were a happily dating couple. We said goodbye at the airport a few days before and I headed to Florida while he headed to Ohio (or so I thought). On Christmas Eve afternoon he called me and just started making small talk. I thought he was driving to his parents at the time. Everything was going normal until he asked me this question:

"Every year you ask your dad to open a gift on Christmas Eve and what does your dad say?"

"He says, 'All or nothing,'" I said back.

"Well, I sent you a gift ahead of time to open today," Daniel said.

So I started looking under the tree for said gift. As I was looking around trying to find the gift I came up from the tree and in walked Daniel through the back porch door of my parents house. He was wearing a suit. I was not dressed so spiffy. In fact, I hadn't showered in a couple of days and I am pretty sure I hadn't brushed my teeth yet. I mean, I was on vacation and I certainly didn't think my boyfriend would be showing up!

He got down on one knee and well, you can watch the rest here. The rest is history. Today we opened a gift together to keep the tradition started by Daniel. I finally get to open a gift on Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas all!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Countdown to Christmas

There is a lot of Christmas cheer going on around the Reissig apartment right now. The tree is lit. Presents are wrapped. Candles are burning. On Thursday night (after Daniel gets off work) we begin our trip to Florida to stay with my parents for Christmas. We are staying the night in Atlanta and will make it to the Sunshine State just in time to go to the Christmas Eve service on Friday night. We only go to my parents once a year, so I am practically giddy about it.

Here are a few things that are getting me in the Christmas spirit these days:
  1. Our tree (as pictured above). It's a sweet little tree that Daniel got for free long before we ever met. But I like our little tree. It's got some character.
  2. This book, as I mentioned yesterday.
  3. Thinking about my mom's chocolate covered peanut butter balls. Divine. Seriously. I'm not even sure she will have any left over when I get home, but a girl can hope, right?
  4. The thought of sleeping and sleeping and sleeping. It's my vacation time too, so I'm taking full advantage. Works been crazy and I'm excited about the little break.
  5. No agenda at all. I live by agendas and schedules. Sometimes to my own detriment. But I have no agenda besides sleeping and hanging out with my family. And snuggling my sweet nephew of course. Which leads me to my next point.
  6. I can't wait to see my nephew, David. He is 15 months now and we haven't seen him since March. I just smile when I think about getting to see his sweet face.
  7. Cinnabon cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. It's a family tradition that is wonderful. I can smell them now!
  8. Pizza on Christmas Eve. Another family tradition. What can I say, food gets me excited at Christmas!
  9. My husband sneaking around the apartment as he tries to wrap my gifts without me knowing. He is so sweet to me.
  10. The precious gift of being able to see almost all of my family this Christmas season. I am so thankful for them.
  11. Hark the Herald Angels Sing is my favorite Christmas song right now. I could listen to it all day long. "Hail the heaven born prince of peace, hail the Son of Righteousness!" Amen!

Well, that's all for now. Just some Christmas ramblings for this Tuesday before Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Jesus is the Fulfillment of Our Longings

For the last couple of years I have read through the short book Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus during the Christmas season. Even though I have read these short meditations on Christmas before, every year brings fresh truths to light for me. Each chapter brings me closer to the Savior and causes me to wonder in the fact that God came to earth. To win us back. It is astounding.

Each chapter is really good, so it's hard to pick a favorite. But the one that has ministered to me most this year is Joni Eareckson Tada's called "A Christmas Longing." Here is a taste of the richness of her words.

"On this side of eternity, Christmas is still a promise. Yes, the Savior has come, and with him peace on earth, but the story is not finished. Yes, there is peace in our hearts, but we long for peace in our world. Every Christmas is still a 'turning of the page' until Jesus returns. Every December 25 marks another year that draws us closer to the fulfillment of the ages, that draws us closer to...home. When we realize that Jesus is the answer to our deepest longings, even Christmas longings, each Advent brings us closer to his glorious return to earth. When we see him as he is, King of kings and Lord of lords, that will be 'Christmas' indeed."

She goes on to say.

"Heaven is about to happen. The celebration is about to burst on the scene. We stand tiptoe at the edge of eternity, ready to step into the new heaven and the new earth. And I can hardly wait. I can't wait to sing 'O Come, All Ye Faithful' as I gather with my friends and family to worship the Lord in heaven...Christmas is an invitation to a celebration yet to happen. If you've got Christmas longing, you're about to be satisfied, too. Just hold on and say with me...Maranatha! Come Lord!"

Praise God that he has come!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday is for a Favorite Christmas Memory

Thanksgiving and Christmas are filled with traditions in my family. My brothers and I love all of the various traditions our family does, and it is even more exciting when we have invited other family or friends into our traditions on Christmas morning. We didn't grow up around our grandparents or extended family, so our Christmas' were just us 6 Tarter's. I can think of two particular years where we had family or friends as "guests" on Christmas morning. Christmas can be a lonely time for many people. For older people with grown children it can be a time of great sadness and longing for what once was. For others it might just be that you can't afford to get home this Christmas. It just makes me so sad when I think of people being alone on Christmas Day. But that's another post. Back to the memory.

One year we had my mom's best friend, Sonja, stay with us for Christmas. Sonja's parents were missionaries and she wasn't able to go home for Christmas. We LOVE Sonja. She babysat for us when we were little, and now she is a dear friend to all of us kids. But this particular year she stayed the night on Christmas Eve and woke up with us on Christmas morning. It was so much fun watching her enter into our traditions like watching It's a Wonderful Life with us on Christmas Eve or eating cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning.

The other year, my Grandma Tarter was with us for Christmas morning. Usually I think of Christmas excitement as being all for little kids. Not so for Grandma this Christmas. We all got her presents and she was like a child opening all of her presents with us. It was such a sweet memory!

In recent years we have had my Grandpa Garrett with us for Christmas time. I always loved watching him open his gifts. He was so hard to shop for, but pictures of his grandkids as presents always made him excited. And any candy or sweet, of course. This will be the first year that he is not with us, but is with Jesus on Christmas Day. I am so thankful we had the time with him for these holidays before God took him. But I am also so thankful we have these other memories of Chirstmas mornings with family and friends that we love.

Next week...My absolute favorite Christmas memory!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hope for the Holidays

The holiday season in a time of loss can be overwhelming and distressing. For us, it is a reminder that we are not excitedly buying little gifts for our expected child, or feeling him or her kick, or giving him a name. For others, it might be the noticeable absence of a beloved spouse, a child you knew and loved, or a parent. Holidays have a way of bringing the sting of loss to the surface in real and excruciating ways. It’s easy to feel forgotten, to doubt God’s care and concern for you. You might feel passed over for blessing this Christmas time. I know I have felt that way in recent days.

I’m sure Hannah felt that way, too. Every year was a sad reminder that she was barren and her rival was not. Year after year she watched her bring children into the world, while Hannah’s womb stayed empty. In his perfect timing, God opened Hannah’s barren womb. She was given the child she longed for.

Does hoping in the God of the Bible mean we get all that we long for? No, it doesn’t. But I wonder if God gives us these stories in the Bible to show us that he doesn’t forget us—even in our darkest moments. Hebrews 11 tells us that some will shut the mouths of lions and some will be sawn in two. Some of us will live seemingly “abundant” earthly lives, while others will flounder in suffering. Both cases are exactly God’s design—the race he has set before us. While the Bible doesn’t give us any indication that our lives, or holiday season, will be made any merrier with a lightening of circumstances, it does tell us that we have reason to hope, even at Christmas time.

You see, this baby we celebrate wasn’t born into flowery circumstances. He was born into suffering and sorrow, all so we could have a great Savior who understands our suffering and sorrow and promises to walk with us through it (Heb. 4:14-16). We can know that God hasn’t left us at Christmas for the very reason we celebrate—God sent his Son to earth for us. And not only did he send his Son, but he sent his Son to die. Christmas is about the coming suffering of the Savior and the great loss the Father would experience when he momentarily turned his face away from his Son on the Cross. All so that sorrowful Christians, like you and me, could know that God loves us.

The clouds might be heavy and weighing down, and God is behind every dark cloud that hovers. He is Immanuel, God with us—with us when we are happy and with us when we are sad. We are not passed over this Christmas, or any day of the year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Help After Miscarriage: Time Doesn't Always Heal

I’ve heard it said that time heals. I suppose it does. But not always right away. In the months following a miscarriage it might seem to the outsider that much time has passed, therefore healing is inevitable. Each passing month for me has brought its own set of challenges. In some ways, I have healed a lot. But in others, the time has only intensified the sadness. I don’t cry nearly as much as I used to, but there are days that I just can’t shake the sadness—the sad reality that I thought I would be feeling a kicking baby by now.

One of the helpful things for me has been my friends letting me know they are still here. They haven’t moved on. They are still praying. And they still remember.

Part of the reason that time isn’t always the great healer is that time moves so quickly. It moves when we can’t seem to move any faster. There were days where I just wanted to go back to the few moments of pregnancy and take it all in—but I can’t. Time has moved on.

Because time moves on it makes you realize what you don’t have. The holidays/milestones can be a sad time of remembering what things were supposed to be like. Time represents shattered hopes and dreams—especially when time takes you to the anticipated due date.

So in this final post on help after a miscarriage, know that time doesn’t always heal as it moves. Sometimes it stings badly. Your friend will be blessed and encouraged by you not moving with the time, but instead remembering with her, stopping with her, and crying with her—even after all this time.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Facing our Fears: Part 5

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, or Part 4

When the shepherds were greeted by the angel in Luke 2 the first thing they heard was “fear not.” Anyone who sees an angel coming out of the sky has reason to fear. It’s unknown. It’s scary. But they are told not to fear. Do not be discouraged if you are fearful today. We all are fearful of something. Some of us fear more than others. The reality is we live in a scary, sinful world. Bad things happen all of the time, and sometimes to people we love deeply. The curse is everywhere. And Jesus came to reverse the curse. By his death and resurrection, sin is conquered. Which means fears are conquered. We do not have to live as slaves to our fears any longer. Whether your fear is what people will think of you, or that your husband will leave you, or that you will never have enough food to feed your family—those fears find their death at the cross of Jesus Christ. As Christian women our hope in times of fear is God. God is working all of our pain, all of our suffering, all of our fears, and all of our happiness for our ultimate good and joy in him. Romans 8:28 says that for those who love God all things are working together for good.

That means our fears too.

Our fears, and the outcome of our fears, are working for our good and joy in Christ. That is our hope. He will do for us all that he has said—but sometimes it’s not until we get to our eternal home. I may never bring a child into this world alive. The outcome of that fear for me might mean barrenness. Or it might mean great fruitfulness from my womb. But God has not ceased being God. And he is still my only hope in times of fear, even if he never gives me a living child. So I ask you again, what are you fearing today? Are you reluctant to trust God’s goodness? Or are you clinging to him, like Sarah, as your only hope in times of fear and anxiety?

I will end with Isaiah 41:8-13 and Isaiah 43:1-3

“But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, ‘you are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off;’ fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you , O Israel; ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

The flames of this life will not overtake us, dear sisters. They might burn us, and maybe burn us badly. But they will not ultimately destroy us. There will come a day when all things will be made new. We will see this grand hope he has called us to—our final salvation. And we will be with King Jesus forever. God created us and saved us for his glory. To serve him and worship him alone. He will keep us to the end. That is our hope in fear. As 2 Corinthians 4:18 says we look not to the seen, but the unseen as we wait for our expected hope, the outcome of our faith.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday is for a Favorite Christmas Memory

With the Christmas season upon us, I think it is only fitting to take a break from my usual “Friday Fotos” or “Friday Food” to post a favorite Christmas memory. Christmas has always been a big deal in my family. To this day, I get really excited mid-October because I can feel Christmas approaching. And I am convinced that my excitement over the Christmas season, and all of the traditions surrounding this time of celebration, is rooted in the fact that my mom worked hard to make Christmas special. There are very few presents that I remember specifically through the years. But I do remember one thing—Christmas was about our family celebrating Jesus and enjoying each other. That is what has stuck with me all of these years. My mom labored, on a tight budget, to make our family traditions meaningful and lasting. Presents become outdated, food spoils, but memories last for a lifetime. And I’m so thankful to have them.

When I stop to think about all of my favorite memories of Christmas’ past, it’s hard to pick just one. So for the next three Fridays leading up to Christmas I am going to post a favorite memory from my family’s Christmas celebrations. If you have one as well, feel free to leave a comment. I love other people’s memories too!

The one that comes to mind most clearly is from when I was in middle school. I have three younger brothers and we all LOVED getting up early on Christmas morning. I’m not so sure my parents loved the fact that we got up when it was still dark outside. But they never really let on. Until this one year. My dad had the smart idea to set everyone’s clock back an hour so we would think it was really 5:00 AM when it was 6:00 AM. The rule was we could not get up until it was 6:00. Because seriously, it’s just plain crazy to get up any earlier on Christmas, right? Not to us. But, being the obedient children we were, we waited until the clock turned 6:00. There was one flaw in his brilliant plan.

He didn’t change my clock.

My dad was worried that I would wake up when he came into my room, so he chanced it with me. But my brothers, who were so anxious to open presents, came into my room at “5:00” and said, “Courtney, we really want to go wake Mom and Dad up, but Dad said we can’t come in the room until 6:00 and it’s only 5:00!” Groggily, I looked up at the clock, looked back at them, and tried to register the time in my head—my clock said 6:00. In that moment we all realized that Dad had changed the clocks. His plan failed! And he knew it immediately as we all ran into their room screaming that it was Christmas morning!

Now it’s just my youngest brother and Daniel and me on Christmas morning at my parents. My other two brothers have children of their own to make memories with and get up early with. We’re lucky now if we get up by 8! My how times have changed.

So what’s your favorite Christmas memory?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Card Time!

Well, it’s that time of year again. Yep, you guessed it. Christmas card time! I already got your input on our picture, now comes the fun part of choosing a card. And even better, I am getting 50 free cards. I read about this deal from Laurin and Melanie. Shutterfly is having a promotion for bloggers, so here I am to talk about how much I love Shutterfly. I just love sorting through all of the pretty card ideas. There are so many Christmas photo cards to choose from. The hard part is picking the perfect one—especially when they all look perfect in their own way.

Maybe I will go with Pretty Poinsetta or Starlight Snowflakes. But I really like In His Name.
It’s just so hard!

If we had more than one good picture (or more than one picture that I liked), we could do Merry Modern Collage or Seasonal Chic. But, one will have to do this year.

Shutterfly doesn’t just have Christmas cards. They have so much more to offer. If you can’t think of something to get for a family member, let Shutterfly help. They have a host of wonderful gift ideas right on their website. Your family will thank you.

I really like their calendars. What better way to manage and organize your life than with pictures of the ones you love right there? It’s a perfect idea!

So now all I have to do is pick out my cards and then I am set. Check your mail soon and you just might see the Reissigs smiling face in your mailbox!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Missions Wednesday: Israel

As Christians, when we hear about the country of Israel we tend to think about the biblical stories. We remember Jacob’s name being changed to Israel and his sons representing the twelve tribes of this new nation that would be God’s people. But for centuries following destruction from the Ottoman Empire, the actual nation of Israel was not even in existence. It was not until 1948 that the modern nation of Israel was even in existence. And it is much different today than it was during the reign of King David, or even the first coming of our King Jesus.

Israel only spans 20,700 square miles and has a population of over 7 million. Of that 7 million, 75% are Jewish and 2.04% are Christian. Less than 1% of the Christian population identifies as evangelical. While there are Jewish people turning to God (and many are from an Eastern European background), Israel still is majority Jewish and the world’s only predominantly Jewish state.

Israel has been characterized by conflict with Palestine since being established in 1948. Wars and fighting have been frequent between these two small nations.

Ways to pray:

  1. Pray for the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Pray that God would save those fighting, and in turn bring lasting peace that can only come from him.
  2. Pray that Jewish men and women would see that Messiah has come and fulfilled all that God said he would. Pray they would trust in his finished work, and not in empty sacrifices.
  3. Pray that Christians would be encouraged in Israel and that churches would be strengthened.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Facing Our Fears: Part 4

Read Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3

Facing our fears in a biblical way is not an easy task. There are many things that can pull us away from hoping in God. We are in a battle every day, a battle for our souls. In order to fight in this battle we need to be ready.

First, we need to know our Bibles. There are over 500 references to fear and anxiety in the Bible. Granted not all of these references are to sinful fear, in fact many of them say “fear not, I am with you.” The point is that the Bible is not void of help for us regarding our fears. Psalm 24:4 says that “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” Why does David have reason to fear no evil? Because God is with him. And in Psalm 34:4 David says again, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Here we learn that David’s fears are relieved because he sought the Lord and God answered his cry. David teaches us how to find relief from our fears—seek God and lean into him.

Psalm 91 is a beautiful Psalm about the protection afforded to the one who trusts God and makes him her resting place. In this particular Psalm we find promises that God will rescue us in the day of trouble and deliver us from all of our fears. Like so many other passages, David is specific about how God will protect him and deliver him in Psalm 91. David is honest about his fears, but also honest about how he handles his fears. These are just a few of the many references to our hope in times of fear. Read the Psalms. There is raw emotion in the Psalms. They are honest. But they are also hopeful. We see God in the Psalms—and we see his work.

Know the characters of the Bible. Know their lives. Know their stories. It is in their stories that you will see God working even in the midst of great difficulty, pain, and fear. Their stories are our stories if we are in Christ. The Bible is full of rich truths that can guide us and lead us in our quest for godliness. We are not abandoned. We have a God who will be near and who has promised to never leave us.

We need to know the God of the Bible—the one worthy of our hope. The Bible tells us who God is, and it is who is he is that should be a great comfort to us in our fears. Isaiah 35:4 says, “say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God He will come and save you.”Recompense means repayment. This passage is saying that God will repay, God will work for his children. We can trust God because he loves us and cares for us. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “for God has given us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Here Paul is telling Timothy not to be fearful about his call to lead the church. Timothy was a young man, he was probably inexperienced at pastoring a congregation. So Paul is encouraging him to believe in Christ’s work in his life and believe that God has equipped him for everything he has called him to. God is not a heavy-handed deity weighing down his might on us. He loves us and has not given us to fear.

We can also trust God because he is sovereign over all things. Psalm 115:3 says “our God is in the heavens, he does all that he pleases.” Proverbs 20:24 says that a man’s steps are from the Lord. Philippians 4:19 says that “God will supply every need according to his riches in Christ Jesus.” God numbers our days, he directs our steps, and he guards our lives. He can be trusted with our fears.

Third, we need to confess our fears to God. Philippians 4:6 says “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.” If he is a trustworthy and caring heavenly father like the Bible says, then he cares about our fears. He wants us to lean on him and hope in him when everything else gives way. We also need to understand that some of our fears are sin because they are unbelief in God’s promises for us. When we seek to control and manipulate, like Sarah did, we are acting out of unbelief in what he promised—and that is sin against him. We might need to confess not only for comfort but also in repentance for our lack of trust.

Fourth, and finally, we need to fear rightly. It might sound crazy after I have talked so much about not fearing. But the Bible does tell us that some fear is not sinful. In fact, it is commanded. Matthew 10:28-31 says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” The Bible is full of commands to fear God. He is the only one we are to fear. But it is not like we typically think of fear. It is a freeing fear.

Author Carol Cornish describes the fear of the Lord this way:

“The fear of the Lord is a good kind of fear. When we faithfully fear God, all our lesser fears leave us. Christians have been delivered from a terror-type fear of the Lord because God has poured out his grace on us and forgiven our sins in Christ…fearing the Lord involves regarding him with the greatest respect and reverence because we know the greatness of his being. We hallow his name. We don’t live terrified of God but, instead we live delightedly awed by him and drawn to him in love and the deepest respect.”

When we fear God all other fears fall away. Because we know our Bibles, because we know who God is and how he cares for us, and because we confess our fears to him, we can lean on him and fear him rightly because he is a good and faithful God who only wants our good.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Friday is for Fotos (a little late)

I couldn't post last night because Daniel took me on a surprise date out of town, and it was wonderful! He finished the semester on Thursday night, and had been telling me all week that he had a surprise planned. So when I got home from work, my bag was packed and we headed to dinner and then a night away.

For Thanksgiving we went to his hometown in Findlay, Ohio, just like last year. I made my first pumpkin pie for our family dinner. I have only made pumpkin pie twice so far, so I was really nervous. But everyone liked it, so I think I did okay. We also went out on Black Friday and got a lot of shopping in. I am pretty much finished with my Christmas shopping, which is a huge task to check off. We didn't go out super early, but we were out there at 7 am and felt like late arrivals compared to other family members of mine! Even though we weren't crazy shoppers, we did enjoy ourselves.

Here are some pictures from last week. The first one is from our Black Friday escapades (hence, the lack of makeup). Hope you have a happy Saturday!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Facing our Fears: Part 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2

In the last post, we talked about how Sarah faced many situations that could cause fear. But notice what the New Testament says about Sarah.

1 Peter 3:5-6 says, “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.”

The context of this passage is on how wives are to live with their husbands, but the even greater context of this book is that Peter is giving us ways to live in light of the Gospel, and in the midst of suffering. In chapter 1 he tells us we have been born again to a living and abiding hope. In fact, the entire book of 1 Peter is about hoping in God—hoping in this inheritance promised to us—hoping in a coming final salvation. What is this living and abiding hope, this hope that enabled Sarah to not fear anything that was frightening?

Hebrews 11:11 says, “by faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.”

Earlier in the chapter the writer of Hebrews tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Author David Wells has this to say about a Christian’s hope:

“Christian hope is not about wishing things will get better. It is not about hoping that emptiness will go away, meaning return, and life will be stripped of its uncertainties, aches, and anxieties…Hope has to do with the knowledge of the age to come…Hope is hope because it knows it has become part of a realm, a kingdom, that endures. It knows that evil is doomed, that it will be banished.”

What he is saying is that we have hope because we know the end of the story. Sarah could hope in God because she knew that the outcome was sure. And we can have the same hope. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:9 that the outcome of this faith, this hope that God will keep us to the end and make all things new, the outcome of all of this is the salvation of our souls. We will be with Jesus in the end.

So Sarah is praised for her faith, even in the midst of her sinful attempts to control her own situation. How can she be praised as a faithful example? This should encourage us. Here a sinful woman is not only called a holy woman, but she also does not fear anything that is frightening. And we have seen that she faced some pretty frightening situations. How? Because she hoped in God. She believed in the promises to come. The promise that we now have—Jesus Christ. How do we live in a world full of fear and anxiety? We learn to hope in God, like Sarah did, and the way many women before us have. Is it easy? No. Will we fail? Absolutely.

It’s not an easy task. There are many things that can pull us away from hoping in God. We are in a battle, a battle for our souls. In order to fight in this battle we need to be ready. In the next post, I will talk about how we can be ready to fight this battle to hope in God.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Facing our Fears: Part 2

To read part 1, go here.

I think it’s helpful to start by first explaining why we struggle with fear. As Mrs. Ortlund said in her book, we have been fighting fear since the Garden of Eden. We live in a sinful and cursed world as Genesis tells us—and the entire Bible bears that out. You don’t even have to look very far into the world we are in now to see that things are not right. There are frightening things all around us. Disasters rage. Cancer destroys. Divorce happens. Violence permeates the news and our neighborhoods. The list could go on. Ever since the fall of man, in Genesis 2, we have been plodding through this life as sinners living in a sin-cursed world. This fearful life is not how it was supposed to be. Adam and Eve rebelled against God and sin spiraled out of control. Because of their sin, we too are sinners. And we also are sinned against. But if we are not given a spirit of fear but one of peace, how are we to live when everything around us is screaming terror and fear?

We are not the first group of women who have had to deal with fears. Consider Sarah in Genesis 11:27-12. There are three things to notice about Sarah:
  1. She was barren. Genesis 11:30 tells us that she had no child. We aren’t given a reason for her barrenness, but we do know that for some reason she is unable to have a child. In this time period, being barren meant a far greater curse than it does today. Being barren is a part of the curse, and in that time period anyone who remembered God’s word to Adam and Eve would know that a woman who lacked a child lacked the ability to bring the promised seed into the world. People didn’t adopt or have fertility treatments. If a woman was without a child for her entire life it was considered to be a tremendous suffering. But notice what God says a few verses later. He tells Abraham that he will make him a great nation, and he continually tells him that his offspring will inherit the land. We aren’t given a glimpse into Sarah’s thoughts, or even Abraham’s at this point. But for them it surely must have seemed impossible. Barrenness/infertility seems like an insurmountable mountain to the one going through it. For Sarah, like so many women, being infertile would have brought moments of deep sorrow and anguish. She just wanted a baby. Anyone who has struggled with infertility understands, the absence of a much desired child can cause many fears to arise. You are left without any control, and sometimes no answers of when or if you will ever conceive.
  2. Notice also that she had to move far away from her homeland. This was not a time of email or Skype. You could not send a letter to your family back home. You couldn’t find them on Facebook and look at their pictures. When you left, it was forever. And it was very likely that she never heard from her family again. Imagine traveling to a foreign land where you have never been. In those days you could not look up the city on the internet. There were no Real Estate agents helping them get settled. Yet, she goes. Again, we are not given her thoughts—but a circumstance like this one could again cause many fears to arise.
  3. She was made to stay with a man who was not her husband. Later on in Genesis we see this happening again. But we are told in this passage that Sarah was very beautiful and Abraham feared for his own life because of her beauty. So he asks her to lie to Pharaoh and because of that she is taken into Pharaoh’s house. Her very life and purity were in danger as her husband subjected her to the harem of this king.

Now, Sarah was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. She was just as much a manipulator and deceiver as her husband. Even though she knew God’s promise that he would provide a son for them, Genesis 16 tells us that Sarah, in her impatience, takes matters into her own hands and uses her servant to bring offspring into their family. Of course, it backfired and conflict characterized their family from that point on. The point is that Sarah had cause to fear, like so many of us do. But her fears did not ultimately control her.

In the next post on fear, I will talk about what the New Testament says about Sarah and her ultimate hope in fearful circumstances.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Interview with Mary Kassian

A little over a week ago I interviewed Mary Kassian for The Gospel Coalition's review site. As always, she had a lot of good stuff to say. We talked about her latest book, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild, and how our understanding of manhood and womanhood has everything to do with the Gospel.

Here is a taste of what she said in the interview:

"Manhood and womanhood are important, because men and women living according to Scripture display the Gospel. That is why there has been such an attack against gender, marriage, manhood and womanhood. If the evil one can pull those things apart, then we lose a display of who God is. When we get it right, we put the Gospel on display."

There's more where that came from. You can read the entire interview here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why I Am Thankful

Daniel and I talked a lot about what we were thankful for as the days led up to Thanksgiving this past Thursday. Of course, we were thankful for the Gospel, each other, our friends and family, and our time at Southern Seminary. We both talked about how we had seen God work in our lives since last Thanksgiving, and thought about how grateful we were for the experience of pregnancy, though brief and ultimately sorrowful. As the weekend went on I found myself increasingly unable to "feel" thankful. In fact, there were moments where I couldn't even remember what I had been thankful for just the few days before.

I have been reading through D.A. Carson's book Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, and in the kind providence of God I read this just last night (Carson is talking in reference to the death of Lazarus and how Jesus speaks to Martha before raising Lazarus):

"Jesus butts up against devestating loss and offers comfort - by diverting attention to himself. I am not for a moment suggesting that there is no place in our consoling of those who are bereaved for simply listening, weeping, holding a hand, helping with the gardening, or preparing a meal. But among genuine believers, the greatest consolation of all comes from focusing on Christ. Not even the raw creedal points of faith are sufficient, as important as they are. For example, 'You will see your brother again: there is a general resurrection at the end of the age.' That is true, and Martha believed it; but it didn't help much. What Jesus does is divert attention to himself. Believers will understand that this is spectacularly encouraging and glorious; others will interpret Jesus' approach as scandalously egocentric."

He goes on to say:

"In our deepest loss, we need more than friendship and a listening ear - though they are wonderful. We need more than mere arguments - though in some cases good arguments stabilize us. We need the reality of God himself - God as he has spectacularly and definitively disclosed himself to us in the person of his Son. He will require of us that we focus our attention on him, both for this life and the one to come."

When I read that I was stunned. It's true. No amount of me trying to theologize my feelings will make me feel thankful. I need to know God, through Christ, and ponder and treasure his work on my behalf.

Did it work immediately? No. Am I still as thankful as I should, or want to, be? No. But I do know as I finish up this Thanksgiving weekend and move into the Christmas season that my only hope for thankfulness and joy is in this little baby born in a dirty manger long, long ago. His name is Jesus. He is my only hope in this life, and the glorious one to come.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Daniel!

Happy birthday to the love of my life. There is no one else I would rather live life with, weep with, laugh with, travel with, be crazy with, fight with, watch movies and television with, or minister with. The list could go on. We’ve got a good thing going on here, my love. Every day is brighter with you in it. Thank you for loving me unconditionally and leading our family towards Christ. This past year has been a lot different and a lot harder than we anticipated. But I wouldn’t want to walk through the sorrow, or the happiness, with anyone but you.

I love you more today than yesterday. And I will love you even more tomorrow.

Happy 29th birthday!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Facing our Fears: Part 1

A little over a month ago, I spoke on fear to a small group of women from my own church and the women of First Baptist Church of Fairdale, KY. For those of you who know me, in my flesh I'm a very fearful person, so this talk was a much for me as it was for any of the ladies present. In the next few weeks, I am going to break it up into a series of posts. I have edited for readability and blogging purposes. Hope it is helpful.

In the 1965 movie, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Lucy asks Charlie Brown if he has “pantophobia.” “What’s that?” he asks her confused. “It’s the fear of everything,” she informs him. If you have seen the movie you know that she nails it. And he suddenly realizes that’s what he has—the fear of everything.

Maybe you can relate to Charlie Brown—are maybe your fears are much fewer. Jani Ortlund, a pastor’s wife and author from Nashville, TN, applies the tendency towards fear to women. In her book Fearlessly Feminine she says,

“Fear is a complex emotion. It can fuel us so that we strive harder to succeed. Or it can freeze us, so that we stay home eating cookie dough and reading the latest gossip magazines. Women today struggle with many fears.”

She goes on to say:

“The problem with fear is that it works so well. It motivates and influences us. It coerces us to conform. It drives us to compete. It prods us to perform. Fear has been part of our hearts since the Garden of Eden. When Eve took the fruit and ate it, she was motivated by fear—fear that she would miss out on what was ‘good…and pleasing…and also desirable’ (Gen. 3:6); fear that God didn’t really have her best interests in mind; fear that obedience would exact too high a price. And we have been assaulted by our fears ever since.”

Most of us can relate to these fears. We can probably add to them too. So what are your fears? How do you battle those fears? Do you hope in your own strength? What about your power? Or your ability to control? Or intellect?

God has much to say to us about our fears in his Word. But he also has much to say to us about our hope in the midst of these fears. My aim in these few posts is to expose you to the treasure trove of truth given to us in God’s word. The Bible contains everything we need to face our fears in a godly manner. So my hope for all of us as we embark on this study is that we would leave here with a bigger view of God and a greater appreciation for his word.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday is for Fotos

I've been really bad at taking pictures lately, but last weekend Daniel and I took some Christmas card pictures. We are pretty sure which one we will use, but would you, dear readers, mind voting for your favorite? Some of these are "just for fun" pictures, but some are ones we will actually use. Thanks and have a happy Friday!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Help After Miscarriage: Knowing Your Friend

It is estimated that 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, in other words, as many as 25% of pregnant women will not carry a baby to term because of an early or middle pregnancy loss. This statistic does not include the scores of women who lose children through stillbirth or even early infant death. In some medical circles, these numbers reflect nothing more than an assumed defect or chromosomal abnormality. They are just statistics for research. But to a mom and dad, this number represents a life—shattered dreams for a child never held.

In the last few weeks I have talked a lot about how to help a friend in the weeks and months following a miscarriage. God has been so kind to continually provide people who care about us and the baby we lost. They have been a means of grace in our life. They have helped us see that there is hope. They have loved us through tears. But the glue that kept all of this together is that they knew us. Our friends and family not only wept with us, but entered into our sadness by asking questions and understanding us.

Nothing will substitute for knowing your friend in the days following her miscarriage. A dear friend of mine asks me constantly how I am doing, and even goes so far as to ask how I feel when she talks about certain things. This means the world to me. People don’t always wear their emotions on their sleeve. And it might seem that your friend is okay with something, even if she is weeping on the inside. Knowing her and asking comforting questions will provide a window into her life and protect you from insensitivity.

Knowing your friend will help you also remember her baby. As you walk through her grief with her, you will be able to rightly remember the child that was lost. It is difficult to remember one that you did not know, but this baby’s memory most likely has not escaped your friend’s mind.
All that I have shared about our miscarriage is exactly that—how we have been helped in our own loss. Everyone responds to grief differently. Grief is not cookie cutter and it does not look the same in any one person’s life. Some women are more open than others. Some cry more easily than others. Some are more prone to introspection. The important thing is that you know her and care for her individually, not according to a box or textbook definition. As you get to know your friend, you will be able to minister to her in ways that outsiders will never understand. And it will encourage her greatly.

God will use you in mighty ways to breathe life into your friend. The very fact that you have kept reading this far shows that you want to be a conduit of grace and hope. So thank you for reading, and thank you for caring. By knowing your friend and praying for her you can help bring a voice to the silent sorrow of miscarriage.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Packer on Suffering

Justin Taylor compiled some encouraging quotes from J.I. Packer on how to understand suffering in our lives. Usually I skim through his blog, but today I lingered. Every word from Packer pointed me to the God of all hope and comfort. I needed this today. May you be as encouraged as I was.

He says:
"We may be frankly bewildered at things that happen to us, but God knows
exactly what he is doing, and what he is after, in his handling of our

Always, and in everything, he is wise: we shall see that hereafter,
even where we never saw it here. . . .

Meanwhile, we ought not to hesitate to
trust his wisdom, even when he leaves us in the dark."

Read the rest here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday is for Food: Parmesan Potato Wedges

This is a pretty simple side that we really like in our house. I've learned (in my short amount of cooking experience) that potatoes are very versatile and cheap. And these potatoes are amazing. Or at least I think so. I actually think about them throughout the day when I know I am going to make them! I got this recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Bridal Edition Cookbook. I have really enjoyed this cookbook and use it often.

6 medium baking potatoes (about 2 pounds)
1/3 cup of butter, melted
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, crushed (I don't crush it. I just use the seasoning)

Line a baking pan with foil or parchment paper; set aside. Cut each potato lengthwise into 8 wedges. In a large bowl stir remaining ingredients. Add wedges and stir thoroughly to coat. Place wedges on prepared baking pan.

Bake, uncovered, in a 425 degree oven about 30 minutes or until tender.

Enjoy! Seriously, they are so tasty!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Missions Wednesday: Algeria

Algeria is a country that has faced tremendous heartache from colonial exploitation by the French to various wars. This suffering has left an imprint on the lives of many Algerians. Algeria is a predominantly Muslim country (97.29%) located in North Africa, next to Morocco. Eighty percent of Algeria is desert and there are 41 different people groups. Eighty five percent of these groups are unreached.

The Church in Algeria has grown, and some believe that the number of Christians in Algeria exceeds 100,000. If this is true, that would be a tremendous encouragement. This growth is largely due to Algerian Christians commitment to move into unreached areas in order to spread the Gospel.

Ways to pray:
  1. Pray for the unreached. The majority of the unreached peoples in Algeria have yet to hear the name of Christ. Pray that Algerian Christians and foreign missionaries would continue to work to bring the Gospel to those who have never heard.
  2. Pray for Algerian Christians. Persecution of non-Muslims is a reality in Algeria. Pray that they would stay faithful amidst persecution and that Christ would be glorified in their life.
  3. Pray for the government of Algeria. There have been significant human rights abuses at the hands of terrorist groups and state security forces. Pray that they would execute justice rightly and that they would protect the people of Algeria.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Help After Miscarriage: Be Pro-Life

A while back someone I know, in speaking about a friend’s grief after her miscarriage, said “I don’t know why she is so upset. She wasn’t even that far along.” At the time I remember thinking it was insensitive, but I also had no categories for it. I knew it was wrong, but I just couldn’t pinpoint why besides the fact that I thought it was rude.

Thankfully, no one has said anything remotely close to that. But I know people who have had something very similar said to them, so it’s probably not an uncommon statement. For the observer of the woman who miscarried it can seem like she is grieving too long, or too much. Often there are no tangible reminders that she was pregnant. Or maybe you didn’t know that she was pregnant until after the miscarriage.

As believers the loss of life at any stage should make us sad and sorrowful for the one suffering the loss—after all we are “pro-life.”

We grieve and fight for the babies lost at the hands of abortionists, and we should. This zeal for life from conception forward should cause us to grieve and embrace our brothers and sisters experiencing a pregnancy loss at any stage. We have been so blessed by “pro-life" people who have done this with us. They have cried with us. They have talked about our baby like he was a person—an image-bearer of God. There have been moments where I tried to “qualify” my grief, like I shouldn’t be this sad because I wasn’t very far along. But a dear friend of mine said to me, emphatically, “no matter the stage, he was still your baby!” To have a friend acknowledge his life meant the world to me.

It’s really important to not de-legitimize the life that was growing inside of a grieving woman. To her (and to God), this baby was not a blob of tissue, or a fetus—he or she was a life. To be pro-life means not only fighting for the unborn lost through murder, but grieving for the life unwillingly lost regardless of gestation. It means allowing a mother to grieve after miscarriage in the same way that we allow a mother to grieve remorse over an abortion. Life lost is sad, especially when it is a child.

The important thing is that we don’t treat a miscarriage as some fluke accident that proves pregnancy is at least possible. One of the most tangible ways to help after a miscarriage is to practice what we preach about life. Allow your friend to talk about her baby in the same way you would if she were carrying the baby to term. Let her know that you care as much about her little one as you do the ones that make it into the nursery at the local hospital.

Life matters. It begins at conception. For every baby.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Missions Wednesday: Yemen

Yemen has been in the news in recent days over the possibility that recovered packages intended to be used for terrorist plots originated in Yemen. It’s really easy to allow situations such as these to breed hatred and dismay for the people of a particular country. Ignorance only fuels that fire. The less we know about a people, often the easier it is to hate them. They don’t have faces. They are trying to kill our people. But if we put faces, or better yet, souls to this situation then hatred has an opportunity to dissolve. After all, it’s not the people of Yemen who are trying to cause terror. It’s a group of people in Yemen. And they kill because they don’t know Jesus. We do. What have we to lose by loving them and knowing a little bit more about them?

Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East. Over the last 40 years they have been deeply affected by wars. This has only contributed to their poverty. They are also one of the least evangelized countries in the world. There are over 18 million people in Yemen, and 99.94% of them are followers of Islam. This leaves only .06% as “other” (.05% Christian, .01% Jewish). The official government religion is Islam and the legal system follows Shari’a Law. To become a Christian is illegal, and non-Muslims are prohibited from evangelizing. For a Yemeni believer, persecution is inevitable, and the societal pressures faced upon conversion are often overwhelming.

The primary economic product in rural areas is the drug called qat. This makes up 40% of the national economy and has tremendous impact on the productivity and health of the population. Nearly half of all children in Yemen are malnourished, largely due to the high usage of qat and poverty.

Interesting fact: The literacy rate in Yemen is 43% (and only 23% for women). This is staggering. Only 43% of the people (not including women) can read which has tremendous implications for their ability to read God’s word.

Ways to pray:
  1. Pray for believers in Yemen. It is illegal to witness, and persecution is a given for Yemeni Christians. Pray that they will have courage to endure.
  2. Pray for the least reached. There are many rural areas that have never heard the name of Jesus.
  3. Pray that God would send missionaries to Yemen and would protect them when they go.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Help After Miscarriage: The Role of "Older" Women

In Paul’s letter to Titus, he tells the young pastor (among other things) to have the older women disciple the younger women in his congregation. He then goes on to list the various things that older women are to train younger women in. These commands have become the foundation for countless women’s ministries across the global church. While these imperatives do not cover the variety of practical day to day occurrences in the life of a woman striving for godliness, the general theme of Titus 2 provides a framework for how we are to live.

I have believed the words of Titus 2:3-5 for a while now. And by God’s grace, have worked hard to live accordingly (both as a mentee and mentor). I didn’t realize how much I needed an older woman until after we lost our baby.

God has been so kind to provide countless “older” women in my life, and that sweet blessing has continued in the months since the miscarriage. It hasn’t always been women older than me numerically, but regardless of age, their wisdom from personal experience has been a lifeline for me in recent days. God has ministered to me through women who have walked this road many years prior, or a few months ago. With every conversation (whether a single instance or multiple meetings), I have heard the all-important words, “You will make it through this intact. God will strengthen you. He will keep you. I know, because he kept me.” I needed to hear women say they still cry about their loss. I needed to hear that grief is necessary and doesn’t always have a timetable. But I also needed (and still need) to hear that God will bring me through this.

I remember vividly attending a conference a week and a half after the miscarriage and really struggling with being in a crowd of people, while having to be happy for that long of a period of time (and if you know me, crowds are life-giving to me normally). On two separate occasions God used two older women to cry with me, pray with me, and share in my hurt. These were God appointed times, where these women were obedient to God’s prompting that a hurting sister needed encouragement. Through them, I felt God’s loving care over my dark circumstance. He used them to part the heavy clouds, even if it was only for a short time.

Some women have been more invested in me than others, simply by the nature of our relationship. They are in it for the long haul; asking the hard questions, praying for me regularly, and seeking to encourage me through a common shared experience. One dear friend told me (after talking with me on the phone for almost an hour after we lost the baby), “you have now crossed over into a group of women that is bonded through this loss, even though we would never have chosen it, it bonds us.”

It’s true.

We need Titus 2 relationships regardless of our circumstances. We need people in our lives. But we need them in our lives before tragedy strikes so they can walk through pain with us. If you are an “older” woman, who has experienced a loss (and you are ready emotionally), one of the most influential ways you can help a woman in the aftermath of a miscarriage is to be the “older” woman for her. Cry with her. Listen to her. Empathize with her. Share your story and let her know that she will survive. Your investment matters. God used these women in my life to hold me up. I know he can use you.

Would I have survived without these women surrounding me? Of course. I have an amazing husband, and more importantly, I have an amazing God. But it surely helped. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review of The Undistracted Widow

I don't have a missions focus for today primarily because I do these for my church's Wednesday evening prayer service and they were a week behind, so I had this week off. So I'm sorry there is no "Missions Wednesday" this week. But it will be back next week.

If you are interested, here is a link to a book review I wrote for The Gospel Coalition's book review site. Carol Cornish wrote an excellent book on widowhood called The Undistracted Widow. As I say in the review, this is a book that no one wants to have to buy for a friend or family member. But when a loss occurs, in time, it might be a good book to provide a dear sister who has lost her husband. Of course, it would be even better if you read it first! Even though her book is geared towards widows, she has some insightful appendices for how the local church can help widows. And her Christ-exalting language throughout the book is good for anyone going through grief.

But don't take my word for it, read the review and decide for yourself!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Help After Miscarriage: Hope for Them

Yesterday, I talked about how helpful prayer is in the weeks and months following a miscarriage. One of the things that has been such a blessing to me since we lost the baby is how much hope other people have had for us. We’ve received emails and cards with hope-filled words. Women who are dear and close to me have hoped in God’s goodness for me when I couldn’t bring myself to hope—or when I couldn’t see far enough ahead to hope. That’s what the body of Christ is supposed to do—hold us up when we are falling and bring words of hope when we are hopeless. For me, at times, it feels like I will never be pregnant again. For my sweet friends, they have confident hope in God’s goodness for me. They know that good will come in my life. They continue to pray for me when I am too faithless to get down on my knees.

Like I have said before, this will look different for every woman. Knowing her pain, disposition, and circumstances is key to bringing hope-filled words. In the immediate aftermath of the miscarriage words do not bring hope as much as tears and sheer presence. As a side note, I can’t even begin to describe how much it blessed me when people just cried with me. To me, their tears meant that they felt my loss and they cared. But in recent days tears have been less and hopeful words have been more. It might mean a card with Scripture, or an email to check-in, or even sending her something to remember her baby. A dear friend of mine would pray Scripture for me and when she sent me cards or emails she would include the particular Scripture she had been praying. All of these things have brought so much light into my life in recent days.

Hoping for your friend does not mean simply quoting Scripture to her in hopes she will move on from her pain. Rather it is an empathetic, heartfelt, Christ-like response to one who is grieving and often times cannot see the hope right in front of her face. It is simply bringing into focus the things she can’t really see through the dark clouds of grief. It’s sort of like holding her arms up when she is too weary and weak to keep going (Exodus 17: 8-16). Hoping for your friend means trusting that God is not finished with her yet, and it means leaning into him for grace to minister and grace to carry on.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Help After Miscarriage: Pray For Their Marriage

God has been kind to provide countless people who have ministered to Daniel and me in the weeks and months following our miscarriage. There were days where I was overwhelmed by the encouragement our dear friends and family graciously gave to us. I have heard people say that pregnancy loss is a “silent sorrow.” And in many ways it is. There is a deep ache in my soul that is hard to put into words at times. But many of our dear friends have shared in this sorrow with us given a voice to the silence.

As I have time I am going to be posting some ways that we have been helped through our miscarriage in hopes that it helps others grasping for ways to minister to friends and family. It won’t be exhaustive and it will only be from my own experience. Everyone responds to loss differently, so it won’t be, and could never be, cookie cutter. Nothing replaces knowing your friend in her loss. So if these ways don’t work for her, that’s okay. Just know that everyone is different. Thank you all who have read and prayed for us from afar. I guess this is what it feels like to be a proud mom, because it means the world to me that you care about our little baby.

Daniel and I have leaned into each other and the Savior in ways we never dreamed of on the day we said “I do.” Sometimes I look at our wedding pictures and tear up thinking to myself, “you didn’t know what was coming.” And we still don’t, really. This is the first of many sufferings we will face as God gives us lives together. It’s not easy. But I wouldn’t want to go through it with anyone else given the choice. This experience has bonded us. I love him more today than I did this time last year.

Perhaps the way to help the couple most in the days following a miscarriage is to pray for their marriage. If your friends are like us they will probably grieve differently, so as time moves on one spouse might feel left behind. This can cause tension, or at least it did for us for a period of time. The enemy hates two things especially—life and marriage; life because it represents the image of God, and marriage because it points to the hope of Christ and his blood-bought relationship with the Church. If he can’t destroy you by taking away your child, he will work overtime to rip apart your marriage. At least that is what it felt like to me. God used the prayers of our friends and family to uphold us.

By God’s grace, this tension only lasted for a few short days. But in the days following this moment of distance I realized how easy it is for couples to drift apart after a loss, and many do. Pray for your friend’s marriage. It might seem like a small way to help, but it can work wonders in their life. God delights in answering the prayers of his people, and he delights in godly marriages showcasing his glory in the midst of sorrow. Pray that this is the case for your friend. She may never know that you did this for her, but God will know. And the fruit born out of praying friends will have a lasting impact in the life of your friend, her marriage, and in the lives of her future children.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday is for Food: Bruschetta Chicken Bake

I made this a couple of weeks ago and Daniel really enjoyed it, which is always a plus! It's super easy and pretty cost-efficient too. I get periodic Kraft Food recipe emails and I have liked every recipe I have made from them so far. Here it is:

Bruschetta Chicken Bake

What you need:

1 can (14-1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 pkg. (6 oz.) STOVE TOP Stuffing Mix for Chicken (I use generic stuffing from the store)
1/2 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces (I cooked mine first)
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
1 cup KRAFT 2% Milk Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (again, I use generic cheese)


Heat oven to 400 degrees

MIX tomatoes, stuffing mix, water and garlic just until stuffing mix is moistened.

LAYER chicken, basil and cheese in 3-qt. casserole or 13x9-inch baking dish.

TOP with stuffing. Bake 30 min. or until chicken is done.

See! Super simple and super yummy! Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Missions Wednesday: North Korea

North Korea is almost always in the news, but as of late this country has been making headlines because of the impending passing of the leadership baton from Kim Jong Il to his son. We often hear of North Korea as a harsh and oppressive country, and this is true. Yesterday, the Desiring God blog posted a story from the Lausanne Conference of a North Korean woman who came to Christ. It's worth reading. Korea was divided into North and South after World War II. Communism rules this small nation. The border is considered to be very difficult to break, and those who do often are never seen again.

North Korea is one of the most oppressive nations in the world. All religions are illegal and persecuted. To be a Christian is a sentence of hard labor, or even death. In 1953 there were 300,000 Christians. Today the number of Christians is estimated at only a few thousand, though this number is very hard to truly know due to the secrecy of the country. The reality is that thousands of Christians have been killed simply for bearing the name of Christ. Many more have fled North Korea. Over 100,000 Christians are in labor camps. While little is known about the underground church, we do know that they have survived amidst great suffering. In North Korea it is a serious commitment to claim the name of Christ. Christians in North Korea mean it when they say "Christ is all."

Ways to pray.
  1. Pray for North Korean Christians. Some have escaped North Korea and fled to China, only to feel the pull back into their homeland. If they are caught, death is almost certain. Pray for courage amidst great suffering and fear. Pray that Jesus would be sweet to them and that they would not back down when trials come.
  2. Pray that God would open borders and provide a way in. There are many who are ready to go as soon as borders are open. This does not seem likely.
  3. Pray that God would make a way to bring the Gospel to North Korea. Years of oppression have made some receptive to the message of Jesus.
  4. Pray for the people of North Korea. The majority of them have never even heard the name of Jesus. Not even his name.

Reading about North Korea was sobering. I don't live in a world like that. But my brothers and sister in Christ do, as well as many more who don't even know his name. Though the task of bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to North Korea might seem impossible to us, it is not impossible for God. Let us pray to that end.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

God is All I Need

In his book Future Grace, John Piper says that “suffering helps us see that God is all we need.” Before we lost the baby I knew that conceptually, but didn’t fully grasp it. I see things differently now. When the life you want so desperately is taken from you, all you are left with is Christ. Before we got pregnant I thought I “needed” this baby. I wouldn’t have admitted it to you. But all of my actions and talk would reveal a heart that was banking all of my joy on whether or not I could get pregnant quickly. I don’t feel that way anymore. I do desperately want to have another baby. But I don’t “need” a baby like I thought I did. Sadly, it took losing our baby for me to realize the idol having a child had become.

The removal of the “need” for a child doesn’t lessen the pain. It’s been a little over 2 months and I still feel like if I let myself I could cry at any moment. There are still moments where the sadness just will not lift. But each day is better and I am a lot farther along today than I have been every previous day. That is progress.

Like Pastor John says, suffering has a way of purging unnecessary needs from our hearts. It’s true that I don’t need a baby to be complete or whole in Christ. Do I long to know my baby and feel him kick? Of course I do. But I don’t feel the need to control every aspect of my life in order to ensure I have another.

I fully recognize that God did not have to feel near to me during this trial. I know many people who have gone through deep suffering and also felt God’s absence. So it is a mercy of the Lord that we felt him nearer to us than we have ever known before. The resounding theme of our lives right now is that he has not left us. We are grateful for that.

I have been given eyes to see that he is all I need more through this loss than I ever have seen before. There were moments immediately following the miscarriage that I didn’t even know what was going on, but God carried me. Somehow I got up, went to work, and still loved Jesus and my husband at the end of the day. I remember thinking to myself, “this is what it feels like to be carried bythe prayers of the saints.” I truly believe we were.

Jesus is sweeter to me now than he was 2 months ago. Are there days where I wish I could have the sweetness of this fellowship and my baby? Absolutely. But I do know that this is my baby’s legacy in my life. I will be a better wife and mother for it. Our baby’s siblings will hear of the greatness of God from parents who have seen him magnify his glory in their lives. Those things cannot be taken from us. We see Jesus as more valuable and great today because of the brief time we had with our baby.

We love Jesus and each other now more than we did before. We still ache. We still grieve. But by God’s grace, and his grace alone, we can say that all we have is Christ—and he is enough.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Reflections on True Woman '10

I just got back from the True Woman ’10 conference in Ft. Worth, Texas. It’s the last of the True Woman conferences for this year and it did not disappoint. I had the privilege of attending the 2008 conference and was blessed just as much this time as I was the last time around. A lot has changed in my life since 2008. I had just started dating Daniel at the last conference. I was still a seminary student. And I was still working for CBMW—which is why I was at the conference. This time I am now married to Daniel, and have been for almost 17 months. I have lost a baby through miscarriage. And I am now a youth pastor’s wife. I don’t know what I would have said to the Courtney 2 years ago, but I do know that who I was at this conference was much different than the last. I cried a lot more. Life is deeper than it was back then. The conference was a blessing to me in so many ways, but for the sake of time and clarity I will just share a few ways I was ministered to at True Woman ’10.

  1. Our need for Jesus. We cannot do this on our own. We need Jesus—desperately. We need him every second of every day to fulfill all that he has called us to as women. He is our rock. Several women said at the conference that we need to be “tethered to Christ.” That is my prayer for myself.
  2. My need to love my Bible more. I can’t follow Jesus if I don’t know what he said and who he is. The Bible is where I meet Jesus and am confronted with my sin. I need to be rooted in God’s word. I need to saturate my mind with his word so I bleed Bible. Susan Hunt said that “wimpy theology makes wimpy women.” Women who know their Bibles won’t have wimpy theology. I want to be a woman who knows my Bible.
  3. I love my husband. I have such a renewed desire to love him, serve him, honor him, and follow him wherever God leads us. I don’t do this well. In fact, I have already failed since I returned. But that’s why I need to be tethered to Christ. But I do love Daniel more today than I did yesterday. He is a joy to come home to.
  4. God has not left us. That thought kept ringing in my ears and heart. I have needed that reminder as we have walked through this loss. He loves me and is for me. Sometimes I say it through weeping. But I have to say it or I will forget. The fact that I could praise him and yearn for more of him during this conference is all grace.
  5. Seeing women growing spiritually. I attended with my mom, her best friend, my sister-in-law and several women from their church. It was so exciting to talk about all that God was teaching us. It was different for everyone and that made it more exciting. God was working in us exactly where we needed him to.
  6. The need for spiritual mothering. I gained a greater passion for nurturing and shepherding the girls in our church. Mary Kassian said that girls today have not been mothered. They need a mother and I want to answer that call—even though I have no idea what I am doing most of the time.
  7. The need for a biblical apologetic for womanhood. This is a term from Susan Hunt. In the pre-conference she talked about how if we do not teach what the Bible says about womanhood we will lose the vision in a generation like so many have done before us. It’s not simply a list of rules to be followed, rather it is to be rooted in God’s word and comes from a heart changed by Christ. We have to be intentional about teaching what God says and not think (wrongly) that our daughters will learn by default. They won’t.
  8. Womanhood is not cookie cutter. It’s so easy to give someone a list and say “follow this.” But that is not what God’s word says. Women need freedom to be who they are in Christ, while still following what God says about their role.
  9. I’m more sinful than I ever realized. Yet, Jesus is greater than my sins. God revealed a lot of sin in my heart during this conference. It’s never fun for that to happen, but I am grateful.
  10. I’m so thankful for my family. Spending time with my mom, sister-in-law, and mom’s best friend was a tremendous encouragement. I am truly a blessed woman. My mom coordinated this entire trip for us and she did a wonderful job!

Thank you Revive Our Hearts for putting on a great conference!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thoughts on Secretariat: What it Means to Be a Woman

Daniel and I went to see the new movie Secretariat yesterday. After seeing the previews for weeks, we were really anticipating this weekend’s release of the movie. And it did not disappoint. Even though we knew the outcome of the story, we still were on the edge of our seats with each horse race. The character development was compelling and the acting was pretty good too. Overall it was a clean movie and worth our time. We would see it again.

However, like all movies, there were some themes to deconstruct as we drove home from the theater. The most obvious for us were the choices of the main character Penny Chenery Tweedy. Granted, I do not know her personally, nor do I know all of the details of this story. So I tread lightly and only with the limited information provided to me by Hollywood. The movie begins with Mrs. Tweedy and her family. She is a wife, mother of four children, and she works in the home—or as they call her in the movie, she is a housewife. That’s not an uncommon profession for late 1960’s America.

In the aftermath of her mother’s death, and in an effort to preserve her father’s legacy, she decides to take over the family horse farm, and specifically help train a horse for racing. This poses a problem. Her family lives in Denver, Colorado. Her parents live in Virginia. Her husband, who is portrayed as a downer to her efforts to save her parent’s legacy, wants her home. He tells her that her family needs her, but she tells him that this is something she needs to do. As the movie progresses we learn that she gave up a career to raise children. This, in her mind, seems to be her chance to make something of herself. To branch out on her own and live her dream. Because of this tension in her own life (family versus dreams) there is conflict between her and her husband throughout the entire movie.

Horse racing was a man's world during this time. But she worked hard to make a name for herself as a woman who knew what she was doing. At the end of the movie, after her horse has made it farther than anyone but her thought, her husband comes to her and essentially said, “you have taught our daughters what it means to be a woman.”

It’s a striking statement. But notice the time period of the movie. Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973. The Vietnam War was underway. And the women’s rights movement was going mainstream. Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique was published ten years prior in 1963, asserting that women who were housewives were unfulfilled and trapped. In 1972, Gloria Steinem started Ms. Magazine. Nowhere does the movie imply that Mrs. Tweedy adheres to feminist thinking, but it is interesting that her transformation comes in a time where women across America were attempting to burst out of the supposed drudgery of caring for a family and home.

Her story is not unlike so many stories of women in that time period, and even now. The prevailing thinking being that ultimate fulfillment is in doing what is best for me individually—living my dream. I have heard people say that times are changing again. Instead of wives and mothers wanting to seek fulfillment outside of the home, young moms of my generation are now rebelling against what their mothers did. All this liberation and freedom rhetoric didn’t deliver and they want out. But is it enough to simply rebel against what generations previous did, even if it means more women are staying home?

There has to be something more. Simply rebelling against the radical feminism of past generations will not be enough to sustain us when the culture shifts in fifty years. We shouldn’t want to go back to the days of June Cleaver. We need to go back even farther, to a Garden in the Middle East, when God made Eve and called her a suitable helper for her husband. Without that framework for our marriages and families we will not be able to stand against the culture.

None of this makes sense without the Gospel. Jesus Christ’s work in the life of a woman changes her desires. Without Christ we want to seek our own way. We want to find fulfillment in things that will make much of ourselves. This doesn’t mean we don’t have interests or dreams. Those are good and right things. But once we are in Christ those dreams align with his mission and his purpose for us, and his glory in the world, not ours. Christ’s work in our lives frees us to live with reckless abandon for our husbands, children, friends, and family.

It is certainly true that Mrs. Tweedy by her actions taught her daughters something about being a woman. But if we want God’s good design for women to be proclaimed in our world we need to do more than just teach by our actions. We need to embrace the command in Titus 2:3-5 and teach and train specific things of God, not for our own glory, but for the fame of God’s great name.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Missions Wednesday: Ecuador

Our church has had the opportunity to be involved in sending a family on multiple short-term trips to Ecuador in the past year. Through their faithful effort, we have learned more about the work of Gospel and about the continued need for the Gospel. Ecuador has been in the news in recent days following what seems to have been an attempted coup last week. Instability in the government has been ongoing, with the average government only lasting two years. There is freedom of religion, but the population is heavily Catholic, like much of South America. The strong influence of Catholicism makes advancement of the Gospel difficult, especially in rural areas.

The Gospel has made the most impact among the Quichua people. They are a large Indian tribe who dwell in the jungle. While in 1960 Ecuador had the lowest number of evangelicals in Latin America, this number has grown from .04% to 6.1% in 2000. This is largely due to the advance of the Gospel among the Quichua people. Because of the work of missionaries in the 1950’s, and beyond, nearly all of the small jungle tribes have churches and Bible’s in their language. This was once thought impossible.

Ways to pray:
  1. Pray for the continued work among the jungle tribes. Missionaries face opposition from anthropologists and others who want to hinder their work.
  2. Pray for increased pastoral training. We know of a team that is there now working with Ecuadorian pastors, training them to go back to minister to their congregations.
  3. Pray for the least evangelized. The upper and middle classes have been pretty unresponsive to missionary efforts. The University and school students are the next generation and need continued evangelizing and discipleship. Few Christian workers have invested their lives in the slum-dwellers of Quito and Guayaquil. Pray that they would be awakened to the call to care for the least of these.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Girl and Her Gun

With the advertising of new shows all around us, September and October are pretty good months for checking the temperature of the culture. Networks provide us with a glimpse into the lives of America—or at least their interpretation of American lives.

Last year brought us Modern Family, a show about three families, with the most seemingly stable family being the homosexual couple and their adopted daughter. In years past we have seen a heterosexual woman and homosexual man living together, and the list could go on. One thing is sure, the advent of the fall season will most certainly include gratuitous sex and the pushing of the envelope.

This year, it’s the girl and her gun. At least the Wall Street Journal sees it that way. They posted an article a month ago titled “On TV, a Girl’s Best Friend is Her Gun.” The subtitle of the article is “What Do Women Want on TV? Producers say: Blood and Action.” The point of the article is that women seem to want to see the violence and fighting that tend to be stereotypical of male viewers. But even more than that, they want to see their own sex engage in the violence as well.

The female heroine is nothing new. From Charlie’s Angels to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we have grown accustomed to having women fight evil forces. But maybe the plethora of shows featuring the tough, female protagonist is saying something about what women expect now. The WSJ article sheds some insight, commenting on how women surveyed view the role of men in these new shows:

“They also (the women studied) thought men had gotten wimpier and associated the opposite sex with the bumbling losers played by Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen in recent romantic comedies.”

Women don’t just want Jack Bauer, they want to be Jack Bauer. Gone are the days where the man saved the day, at least in the minds of the women who were studied. It’s a woman’s world now—and she can protect herself and the rest of us.

While none of the women studied blatantly claim feminism—most would probably say they are one. In their minds, it seems only natural that women take up the mantel to fight the evil of this world. If men can, they can too.

It’s not fundamentally wrong for a woman to shoot a gun (I have). Nor is it fundamentally wrong for a woman to own a gun (I have friends who do). But what these shows are saying is that women are now just as much defender and protector as men are, if not more so.

The issue isn’t who should be the most violent. Neither should desire violence. The upcoming fall season is saying something about who women think they are and how they define themselves. They don’t need a man to protect them against the evil forces of this world. They can and will protect themselves—and look pretty while doing it.

The world would have us believe that these things don’t matter, that the fact that women are now portrayed to be just as tough as men is an advancement. But is it?

This is never what God designed. Godly women know when to defend and protect. They understand that there are circumstances that call them to defend those that cannot defend themselves (the unborn, children, and the disabled) and also defend women who are in crisis situations (abuse). But they also know when to lean on the leadership and protection of men. Male protection and provision is not a cultural construct. It was instituted by God. When we deviate from this, problems will inevitable result, as we saw in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve both abdicated their responsibilities.

A girl with a gun might get ratings. And according to the Wall Street Journal, that is a likely possibility. In the end it won’t really keep her safe from the greatest enemy of all—the one waging war against her own soul.

(This blog post is part of a contest to win 2 free conference passes to True Woman in Ft. Worth, Texas. If you would like to enter this contest, go here.)