Saturday, May 14, 2016

Still Rippling

I've lost track of the years now.  It hasn't even been that long. Two? three? years today, I think? that she silently slipped away out of our lives.

I've lost track of the years, but I've kept track of every moment. Every moment when I thought, "She'd love this. She'd enjoy that. She'd be laughing her head off right now at this. She would have come and stayed for the summer.  She would have gone and done this with me, with us, with my kids. She's laughing right now at that. I would have invited her to come out for this. I would have bought her that." Those thoughts, those moments, never stop. They continue to catch me off guard.

I spent a whole day bawling my eyes out last month for what seemed like absolutely no reason at all. No reason other than I was just overcome with the thought of missing her. The day passed, the tears stopped, life moved on, but on this day, every year, the world slows down just a bit. The sun passes slower through the sky, and it only seems right to honor someone who changed your life.

She really did. She changed the way I viewed people. She changed the way I viewed how to love and interact with people different from me. She changed the way I viewed suffering and how to respond and live life in the midst of it. Her death left me marked for life. For the better.

Not sure I've ever mentioned this, but I've been reliving our last conversation together in my mind for some time now, maybe half a year. I remember her calling me Saturday afternoon before she had her asthma attack on the following Sunday. I remember hearing how tired she was in her voice. I always asked how she was. She always said fine. She asked me some details about the next week because she was going to start babysitting for us for the summer after her finals were over. I remember being distracted, needing to get off the phone for some reason, so the conversation was rushed. I remember wanting to tell her I loved her, but that was weird because I'd never said that to her before (we weren't technically family after all.) But I remember having the overwhelming urge to say it, and then not saying it. Simply saying goodbye, see you next week, and hanging up, worrying about her because she sounded so exhausted.  

And then she was gone. It was Tuesday before I held her hand in that hospital room, hooked up to all those machines, looking like she had long left this earth. And I must have stood by her bedside whispering over and over again how much I loved her, how much I appreciated her. How I knew she knew, but how I wished I had said it out loud more.

That last conversation has haunted me for too long. The truth is, she knew I loved her. I knew she loved me. We didn't have to say it, although it would have been nice. But that conversation was/ is a turning point, a milestone in my life. It's a reminder to me to never be too busy to listen and respond to the things the Holy Spirit speaks. His Voice is often so quiet, so gently prodding, that my busyness inside my own brain, my train of thought that is always pressing on to the next station instead of parking in the moment, often overwhelms and barrels over His always guiding Voice. 

His Voice that is always prompting me to say "I love you", to pour the glass of milk for my son that says "I love you", to lay for two minutes longer in bed at night with my daughter that relays the message "I love you", to scratch my husband's back for just a moment longer to say "I love you." 

Jesus just wants us to ooze "I love you" out of every pore in our body, every action, every thought, every word. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) He wants to be the love that others feel and see and know that is true because HE is the only true Love in the world. (1 John 4:8) 

And while I refuse to live in condemnation of a moment lost to say "I love you" to one of the dearest people I've known in this life, I will never forget the lesson learned. Friends, we are NOT promised tomorrow with anyone, for anyone, by anyone. (Proverbs 27:1) The Holy Spirit knows. (1 Corinthians 2:10) He knows the moments we will regret and relive and yearn for do-overs. So the challenge is to learn to listen AND obey in the moment, exactly when He speaks. No questions, no hesitations, no over-thinking. Not quenching the Spirit with our busyness or sin or excuses. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)

You never have to second-guess or over-think an act that says "I love you" in the 1 Corinthians 13 kind of way. Never. Just do it.

My dear Savannah Veale, I love you. Always did. Always will. You will always be a part of who I was and the catalyst God used for who I am today. You are still a source of great joy for me, even in memory. The ripple effects of your life are still rippling. 

Still rippling.

Now to Him who is able (My God is ABLE!) to do immeasurably MORE than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (emphasis mine)

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Celebrating God's Way as the Best Way

Fifteen years today I've been married to the man of my dreams!

I could write a book about why Joey Durham is perfect for me, but rather, I'd like these fifteen years to stand in testimony to the power of God and His design for marriage.

Many moons ago, God created a longing and a desire in a little girl to see the world, to expand her horizons, to know God in all His glory.  In college, she thought she'd follow God to the mission field, but instead, she fell in love with a godly man.

At 21 and 23, they married young, and screwed up so many, many things. They were selfish and guarded and knew nothing about real intimacy. The safety of their covenant marriage before the Lord allowed them a secure, stable place to start to come out from hiding, to actually try to attempt to show another human being who they truly were. To trust that even if the other person inevitably screwed up, massively even, they both knew each others' heart was committed to the Lord first, and if Jesus could forgive them over and over again, they could learn how to forgive each other over and over again. Because no one was leaving. There's no flight option in a covenant with the Lord, only fight.

And the more they focused on Jesus, the closer Jesus drew them to each other. It didn't matter how ugly it got inside the space of their marriage, their commitment to Christ was as secure as their salvation. Jesus reminded them they made a covenant to Him, not themselves, to stay married, and there were some seasons that is all they really trusted or half-way believed. 

Jesus was/is always enough. He healed their hurts, their hearts, their home, time and time again, year after year. Each time knitting them closer and stronger together than before the rip had occurred.

After fifteen years of watching God alone hold our marriage together, I am convinced that a cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12). I am convinced that marriage can't be truly fulfilling, successful, or meaningful without God at the center and in control of both spouse's lives. I am convinced it is harder to build and maintain a strong marriage than to parent your children, and it should be treated as such, given the time and attention it needs and deserves. Because I made a covenant before God to love, honor, respect, and cherish this one man for the rest of my life. I made no such covenant with God concerning my children. I am convinced that within the secure ramparts of a God-centered marriage, you eventually learn how to fight the devil rather than fight each other. I am convinced that prayer is a powerful weapon we wield in defense of others.

After fifteen years, we are just now, finally beginning to explore the tip of the iceberg of what is true intimacy, transparency, and vulnerability. So many walls in our lives and hearts have come down, so many more still in process of being demolished. Did I already say marriage is work? Never-ending, back-breaking, soul-submitting work, and I voluntarily signed on!

But when you stick with something for fifteen years, you get to honestly say, "I wouldn't change a thing, trade one moment for another, or do anything different. It has been and will continue to be worth every tear, every heartache, every struggle because the highs are so much sweeter and higher than the lows. It really is true that the harder you work for something, the more you appreciate it."

Only people who've worked--not just hung in there, kept the status quo, or settled for pretty good--but those who have blood, sweat, and tears WORKED for something for longer than ten years understand those truths.

And that little girl who God created with a longing and a desire to see the world, to expand her horizons, to know God in all His glory? God has used marriage as the conduit through which to fulfill all those deepest longings and desires. After watching God work for fifteen years, I can't wait to watch how He works for another fifty! And by choosing to stay married and to keep working toward maintaining the best marriage God has designed, I am guaranteed a front row seat to watching God work!

Joey Durham, you love me like Jesus, most days, to the best of your ability. You sacrifice yourself for me and our family. You submit your will to the Lord's for our betterment. You love me just the way I am, no strings attached. You see me for who I am, and you accept that only God can change me, so you just figure out how to love me exactly where I am. You lead our family toward Christ. You lead by word and example. Don't ever urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. (Ruth 1:16) I made that promise fifteen years ago and engraved it on your wedding band because you're never getting rid of me. I love my Jesus, therefore, I love you. Happy anniversary my love.

And may God get all the glory!
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