Five weddings

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Photo by MBurke Photogrpahy

Photo of my dress by MBurke Photogrpahy

“I can’t have five weddings!” my new friend exclaimed. “I am just going to have to pick a dress.” We were two brides in the throes of wedding planning, learning that we couldn’t incorporate every gorgeous, creative idea from Pinterest. I loved her joyful spirit and the contentment she had with what she and her fiancé were choosing. Because every time we make a choice to do something in life, we also choose not to do something else. And I often focus too much on all those options left behind.

My groom and I chose our modern invitations, blue and orange colors, and dark chocolate-covered orange peel favors to reflect our personality and style. Most importantly we chose to love each other for the rest of our lives. Then a short time later we watched our friend float down the green grass in her gorgeous gown and commit her love to her groom.

It’s very easy for me to second-guess decisions that I’ve made. I only spent 2 hours picking my wedding gown, and it was great; I really loved it. But after the wedding I saw others and wondered if they would have been better. And I saw other wedding centerpieces, bridesmaids’ dresses, favors…you get the idea. Really what I wanted was five more weddings.

But I only get one wedding and one groom…and for that I am incredibly grateful! Our wedding was amazing, so full of love from our family and friends and our Heavenly Father. And that was just one day. My husband is full of love and I get to experience him every day!

When I think of many choices in life, it helps me now to think, “Well, I can’t have five weddings!” Because I can’t have it all, but I can choose something and enjoy it.

But when I think of marriage, I love to think that God chose my husband for me. I love being on the other side of the wedding, where the debate “Does God have a specific person for you?” is now a silly question. There’s no second-guessing this choice… I love you, Noah, for the rest of my life.

Joy!

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Going to the Jersey Shore on Memorial Day has become something of annual tradition…okay, it’s happened twice, but now that I’m married to the man I went to the shore with those times, we’re hoping it will become tradition!

Sometimes joy is a fight…that’s one of the reasons I started writing this blog. I was fighting for joy and learning to find it in God. (And I continue to need God desperately.) But sometimes, joy effortlessly spills out of our hearts as we delight in the Lord and in His gifts to us. And that is how I felt these past two Memorial Days with the man who would become my husband…overflowing with joy!

The first time we went, I was convinced that going to the shore on Memorial Day would be a bad idea…traffic, cold water, crowded beaches, etc. None of this was a problem. We had a great time and enjoyed playing mini-golf on the boardwalk with friends. But for me, the highlight was walking along the beach and hearing him reveal his thoughts about the possibility of a future together. Even though he hadn’t said, “I love you” yet, I was totally “in love,” and I hoped he would be the one I loved for the rest of our lives. But really neither of us knew what God had planned for us. We were waiting.

One year later, so much had happened (including a break up and reconciliation). We found ourselves at the same beach, but in a totally different place. We were not engaged, but we were decidedly headed toward marriage. We’d made the decision to love each other, and were experiencing so much freedom and joy from making that commitment. We would often try to describe our love, using nerdy analogies to outdo each other. I claimed that I loved him so much, all of the memory on his phone wouldn’t be enough to hold my texts declaring my love.  Being a software engineer, he told me he calculated how long it would take me to type out “I love you” enough times to fill his phone, and he told me maxing the memory would be highly improbable. After all, his phone held 10 x 2^34 GB of data.

On the beach, he talked about his dreams, and I asked, “Do you know what I dream of?” I used a shell fragment to write our names in the sand, picturing a lifetime of happiness with the one I loved so much. The waves washed our names away, and we walked a little further. He asked me to turn around and close my eyes, and when I looked back at him, I saw this:

drawing

I was thrilled! I was so happy to be loved so much and to be so full of love for someone else! It was a beautiful day, and when the sun set, we left the beach and stopped at the same diner as the previous year. We drove home through the dark pine barrens, and he opened the moon roof so I could look at the stars.

A few months later, on August 18, at a different New Jersey beach, he again asked me to turn around and close my eyes. I fully expected to see another math equation about our love. But to my surprise…

2012_0819Engagement0017There was a gorgeous, sparkling diamond ring at the bottom of the heart. And most importantly, a godly, loving man on one knee.

We were married six months later on February 16, 2013. When I think of the great things the Lord has done for us, I am filled with joy! (See Psalm 126.)

So, readers, there you have it…the reason for my long absence from blogging. And honestly, I can’t say whether I’ll be back on a regular basis. I have a new hobby now : )

Because He Loves Me (Book Review)

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Because He Loves Me  -             By: Elyse Fitzpatrick

While eating soup is like a party in your mouth, “cooking the soup” isn’t always a joyous experience. Sometimes the challenges of work get the best of me. But a book that my friend Susan recommended has been extraordinarily helpful. Because He Loves Me by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick shows how the Gospel transforms our daily life. Before you yawn, think to yourself that you already know the Gospel, and click to another website, please hear me out.

Here’s how I apply the Gospel to the challenges I face at work, in the framework that Elyse Fitzpatrick presents:

Incarnation – Jesus humbled Himself and became a lowly servant. He knows what it is like to be human, to be tired, to be sick, and to work. He worked as a carpenter, and He likely experienced the drudgery, monotony, and pressure that almost everyone endures at one point or another at work. During His life on earth, he also suffered betrayal, misunderstandings, and false accusations. No unfair situation at my workplace is beyond His understanding.

His Sinless Life – Jesus lived perfectly, obeying every law in my place, so I don’t have to strive for perfection on my own. I am also free from the pressure of giving  the appearance of perfection. I don’t have to worry about looking like I have it all together all the time. I can be honest with people and admit my mistakes. Jesus lived a perfect life, and I have His record.

The Crucifixion – At work, I am trying to prove that I’m a success (so much so that success is my idol). But the cross proves that I’m a failure. However, Christ bore the wrath that I deserve. I’m completely forgiven for my idolatry, selfishness, ungratefulness, and complaining.

The Resurrection – Because God raised Jesus from the dead, I know that (1) His sacrifice has been accepted by God, and (2) God has forgiven me. Sin no longer has power over me. I no longer need to prove my worth to anyone — not to my boss, not to my coworkers, not to my LinkedIn connections, not to God, and not to myself. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I can change and become more like Christ. Through His strength, I can go to my desk each day with the mindset of a servant, working with gratefulness for the job and the resources that God has generously provided. By His power, I can reflect His peace, joy, and love as I participate in meetings, answer e-mails, and field unexpected interruptions.

The Ascension – Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. He loves me and will bring me to be with Him one day. He is speaking to the Father on my behalf, sustaining me with grace and mercy. My career is not at the mercy of economic forces, the whims of management, or the number of late hours I can put in at the office. It is being directed by the CEO of the universe, who understands me and loves me. His plan for me is bigger than this week’s PowerPoint or next month’s budget, but He uses even those things to help me become like Christ.

Taking brief moments to consider all of these aspects of the Gospel throughout my workday is transforming my outlook. I am a work in progress! I pray that you will also experience the transforming power of the Gospel, no matter what challenges you face.

How do you apply the Gospel to your life?

Collyde Summit

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What is your calling?

It was a privilege to invest a whole day at the Collyde Summit in Princeton, NJ, thinking about this question and hearing different perspectives. Here are some of the highlights:

Rob Cruver, Senior Pastor of Zarephath Christian ChurchWhat is your calling? It’s two words, said by Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 4: “Follow Me.” Jesus is asking us to do this every day, and our calling never changes. This is about denying ourselves. It’s not about glamor, accolades, resumes, or career paths. But Jesus offers us FULL LIFE. I love the way Rob Cruver describes “calling.” It brings so much clarity to life. Continue reading

Timelines, flowerpots, and pink paint

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The danger of frost is over, so I decided it would be okay to plant seeds outside. Being the planner that I am, I read the back of the seed packets and started looking forward to seeing my Columbine seedlings sprout in 22-30 days and my impatiens germinate in 10 days. I was trying to guess how long it would be before I saw blooms.

But a squirrel came by looking for lunch. He dug up my dirt and seeds and threw out my plans.

It’s gardening, these things happen, and I got over it. A gardener advised me to start over, putting chicken wire on top of my pots to keep the animals away. Meanwhile, this experience got me thinking about timelines. Sometimes I feel as though the flowerpot of my life has been knocked over. Things often don’t go as I plan, and even good changes can be surprising and overwhelming.

When I think about timelines now, I remember a snowy day this past winter when I helped paint a friend’s house. I was with some ladies who have more life experience than I do. We were painting a little girl’s room a bold pink. The conversation turned toward the pregnancy of a mutual friend, and the best age to become a grandparent. In all of my planning and dreaming about the best age to get married and have children, the timing of becoming a grandparent had never even crossed my mind! I couldn’t imagine trying to plan that.

I said something like, “Well, things don’t always go according to our timelines,” because I was disappointed that I hadn’t received something I’d wanted yet. The two ladies agreed. And as they dipped their brushes in the bubble-gum pink paint, I thought about their lives, and I knew they understood. Each of them could have told me how much easier my life was than theirs, but neither did. We just painted together, and I found comfort in being with people who know that God is sovereign over the timelines of our lives.

What can I do for you?

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In my previous post, I discussed the most powerful Person in my network – God. Now I’d like to talk about the importance of networking with less influential people, like CEO’s, administrative assistants, and financial analysts.

Over the past few months, I’ve paid closer attention to people and noticed four different philosophies of networking.

1) Networking is all about me and what I can gain. These are the people who don’t make an effort to meet anyone new or stay in touch with old colleagues until they are looking for another job. Or worse, these are the people who do a small favor for you, like making a ten minute phone call, and then expect you to create a report that takes hours. They are always thinking, “What’s in it for me?” Continue reading

Who’s in your network?

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Many savvy professionals say that they don’t worry about losing their jobs, because they can simply pick up the phone and call people in their network. In fact, I’ve heard people claim that they are so well-networked, they’ve never had to apply for any job after the first one.

As part of an assignment for class, I listed everyone in my professional network and assessed the strength of our relationships and their ability to influence my career. Let me tell you, this exercise did not serve to reduce my worry about a potential job loss! The U.S. economy is bad, many companies are cutting jobs, and, wow, I have gaping holes in my network! As if I didn’t have enough on my mind already, now I can worry about my lack of connections to C-suite executives.

Several weeks after this exercise, I realized I left off my list the most influential Person in my network – God. Kingdoms, nations, and corporations do not rise or fall outside of His dominion. He is has power over the grandest schemes of man, yet He is intimately involved in the smallest details of our lives. And I don’t even have to call His admin and angle for fifteen minutes His time. In fact, He reached out to me first. He so greatly desired a restored relationship with me, that He sent His Son Jesus to die for my sins and raised Jesus from the dead. Now I can talk to Him every day, whenever I want.

Because I am networked with God, I don’t have to worry about my job anymore. My future is in the hands of the most powerful Person in the universe, who loves me and wants the best for me.

(Of course, trusting God isn’t a free pass to avoid networking with people. I wrote about networking here, and I’ll have more to say on the subject in future posts.)

Why is planting seeds so much fun?

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I think it’s because of the anticipation – looking forward to the sprout and the blossom. Everyone needs something to look forward to, whether it’s finishing up a big project at work, attending a friend’s wedding, feeding a baby solid food, or seeing a flower bloom.

I found these super-convenient seed starter kits at Lowe’s for about $5 – $6.

Burpee Seed Starter Kit

I think my grandparents use egg cartons, which would be free. But with the starter kits, the seeds grew in a nice little green house, and I didn’t have to water them. They were also very easy to use indoors since the dirt came in little pellets, to which I simply added water. There was no clean up involved.

Seeds Continue reading

Fear and empty things

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The people of Israel are having second thoughts. Making Saul king had seemed like a great idea after the recent victory against the Ammonites. But now their departing prophet Samuel has just delivered a speech reminding them of the consequences of disobedience to God. To emphasize his point, Samuel has called on God to send thunder and rain. The soaking wet people are shaking in their sandals. Beyond concern for the ruined wheat harvest, they now recognize the future of their nation is at stake. Here’s where the story picks up in 1 Samuel 12:19-25 (ESV):

And all the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.And Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.’

Samuel exhorts the people, do not be afraid, do not turn aside from following the Lord, and do not turn aside after empty things. Aren’t these common reactions once we’ve recognized our sin? I know these describe my tendencies. I fear that God won’t forgive me, even though intellectually I know there is no sin too powerful for Christ’s death and resurrection. I’m so ashamed that I try to ignore my guilt and keep on sinning. So I turn aside from following the Lord and turn after empty things.

Until the point when I realize that the Lord will not forsake His people. (See also Hebrews 13:5 and Romans 8:1-3) Instead of fearing sin, I fear the Lord. I consider what great things He has done for me. I humbly ask for forgiveness, and instead of following my first inclination toward more sin, I turn toward the Lord and try again to serve Him with my whole heart.

As we reflect on our sin this Good Friday, let us not become so discouraged by our failures that we give up and turn aside from serving the Lord. Instead let us consider the great things that God has done for us in the work of Christ on the cross. Let that spur us on to faithful service, secure in the knowledge that the Lord will not forsake His people.

Container gardening…when it’s cold outside!

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The strong smell of Bradford pear blossoms was filling the air last week. I ignored the warnings from KYW, the local radio station, and decided it felt warm enough to start my garden. Last year, I didn’t plant my flowers until July, and the only option left at Lowe’s was pink begonias. Thankfully, they bloomed into October and gave me much joy. So I wanted to get a jump on things this year.

I thought I should stick with begonias. They thrived through August last year, surviving my busy season at work when things at home don’t always receive proper care. I set my heart on red ones this time. After trekking to three stores and a closed farmer’s market, I accepted that it’s really too early to plant anything except pansies and maybe some herbs. Even though the warm weather was coming to an end on Saturday, and it was threatening to rain, I planted my selection of pansies and herbs.

On Monday, I heard that that the temperatures were going to dip below freezing that night. Of course I worried about my plants! Lucky for me and my plants, I own a condo, so all of my plants live in containers. I brought them all inside. Except the pansies. They’re tough, cold-hardy flowers. (So why isn’t “pansy” a compliment?)

For inspiration from people who are actually experts in container gardening, check out gardensquirrel.com. I can’t wait to try out some of their hanging basket ideas when the weather gets warmer.