Thursday, February 9, 2017

Better than Diamonds

Big Sur from our drive down Highway 1/the Pacific Coast Highway last year

My husband isn't an overly sentimental man.  But he does have little ways of surprising me when he shows that there's more beneath his blunt, take-me-as-I-am exterior.  He won't admit to it, but he secretly enjoys watching rom-coms with me, and he loves watching Pride & Prejudice, one of my all-time favorite movies.  Don't think I'm swiping his man card just yet... he also likes going days without showering, sleeping outside under the stars (without a tent), growing a beard... all that man-stuff.  

A few months into marriage, I received this text from Scott. 

All the heart eyes and warm fuzzies for this one.  We've pretty much stuck to this in our marriage, foregoing birthday presents, nice houses, new cars.  We buy used appliances when we can and do our best to buy as many things "second hand" as we can.  Instead, we spend our money on experiences together and travel.  And you know what? It's better than diamonds.  Our home may be humble and small, and we may zip around town in a green 1998 Honda Civic with paint chipping from the hood (that sounds more like a podracer than a car), but it means that we get to walk hand in hand to see some of the most beautiful places in the world, places we've dreamed of or drooled over in photos.  

I think God promises these same things to us.  Life with Him is very similar-- when we respond to His call to walk away from the sparkly temptations of this world, He promises that it will be better than diamonds.  He promises that life walking with him is more beautiful than the riches of the world.  He invites us to something better--something more than material things--diamonds, investments, trust funds.  The eternal life He promises is better than diamonds.  If you've tasted the riches of His love, you know this to be true.  And if you haven't, you're invited in.  You're invited into the love of a King who loved you so much that He died for you.  He was fully God and fully man, born of a virgin.  He came to Earth and lived a perfect life, was persecuted, nailed to a Cross, and died for the sins of you and me and the whole world.  And 3 days later, He rose from the grave--fulfilling the prophesies and proving that He had conquered death once and for all.  Oh, I pray these things for you, if you do not know the riches of His love.  

Because let me just say that more than anything I've ever known, I know that His love is better than diamonds.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Weekend Reflections

How's your weekend so far?  I hope you have found moments for rest and moments for joy and moments for loving those around you.  We have done all of these things and more this weekend.  I'm sitting down now to plant myself firmly in my desk chair and get started on homework.  But I found myself needing to write before doing so, so here we are.

The past few months have been incredibly challenging for my faith life, and I am finally coming up from the valley to see what's at the mountaintop.  I've been telling people in my life recently that I think I will one day look back on the part of life I've been walking through lately and recognize it as a valley.  That's hard to see when you're walking through it, but I just had this sense that though I was despaired, discouraged, and uncertain of things, that the Lord held me tightly and whispered His promises to me through His creation.

I've been hiking a lot recently, a new passion I'm discovering for myself.  I've always been a lover of sunrises and sunsets, but recently I've grown to love the outdoors even more than just at the opening and closing of the day.  Walking through bare trees in the woods reminds me of the fruitless season I have walked through, but it also holds the promise of new life to come in just a few months.  It holds the promise of things that will bloom and grow and prosper.  The same is true of my spiritual life-- though the season has felt dark and barren, I feel the promise of new life coming.  I've been walking through a season of sanctification, and while it isn't something you wish upon yourself, God's promise of making you more like Him is sweeter than the trials you go through to get there.

This weekend, Scott and I took steps towards becoming members of the church that has shepherded us in our spiritual life for over 3 years.  We met with pastors and elders and people who have breathed life into us and encouraged us.  Some of these people are the same ones who have helped me walk through the valley and who have prayed for and encouraged us in ways that only point me to Jesus more.  After months of clinging to anger and anxiety that I am tired of carrying, I am laying these things at the feet of Jesus and asking him to carry them and redeem all things as only He can do.  It's been selfish for me to carry them myself for so long, but that's always been my burden.  A friend and I were praying for one another recently and were discussing Matthew 6 in relation to anxiety (Matthew 6:25-34), and I confessed that I have always envisioned myself as the one little bird anxiously flitting her wings and looking for her own food and protection instead of trusting what the Lord provides.  I have always held onto control instead of relinquishing it to Him.  She sat for a minute and then said to me, "Have you ever tried to envision yourself joining the flock and feeling God's protection and provision that He promises?"

No.  I never have, until recently, that is.  Recently, it's been an increasing challenge to fly on my own.  So I'm joining the flock, both literally and figuratively.  I'm laying my burdens at the feet of Jesus and am joining the church that has kept inviting me in even while I was flapping anxiously outside the flock for so long.  Fellowship with believers can be so beautiful.  I have been closed off from this for a while due to deep wounds that I needed God to heal before I could join new community again, but He is doing a deep work in me to suture the wounds and heal me from within.  And He is walking with me up to the mountaintop now as I peer out and see all the beauty I was missing down in the valley.

Deep down, I know that you have to walk through the valley sometimes.  You can't just jump from mountaintop to mountaintop-- there's just no physical way to do this.  So though we don't plan for the valleys, we have to walk through them before we get to the next mountaintop.  And praise God that He dwells in those dark places and shines light into them-- that He walks through valleys with us and whispers His promises so sweetly as we muddle through the low places.  I praise Him for strategically placing people in my life who breathe life into me and speak truth into me when I am doubtful and broken, the times when I need His word breathed into me because I can't physically find a way to open Scripture myself.

So if you've been part of that for me recently, I just want to extend immense gratitude towards you.  I'm setting these things at the foot of the Cross and will cling to them no more.  I am moving beyond myself and moving closer to the face of Jesus to be more like Him.  I am in awe of how I daily fail at this but how He constantly redeems, forgives, extends grace.

"For all have sinned a fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith." -Romans 3:23-34