Wednesday, September 29, 2010

You are cordially invited

Oh the elation we receive from an invitation and the barriers we established from the lack there of. An invitation births inclusion, assurance, confidence, and a renewed sense of hope.

I remember crying in the back of my dad’s truck on the way home from high school because I was not invited, or so I told myself. I felt sad and hopeless. I could have walked up to the group of girls and joined them, yet I did not. They did not think to extend an invitation (which is a typical innocence) therefore I inferred they did not want to extend an invitation. So often I make assumptions based on the insecure whispers of my flesh. Fast forward to college. Instinctively I make preparations to again be the sad and hopeless girl crying in the back of my dad’s truck. Before I could crawl into my slimy pit (Ps. 40), a friend extended an invitation to me. The invitation was simple, yet meaningful, and would be instrumental in my life. From her invitation, I was able to receive many more invitations, and I also extended many more invitations. One day I am crying as a school kid, the next day (not literally) I am surrounded at prom by friends. One moment I am ready to find a new community, impatient for God’s blessing (Ps. 27:14), the next I am distracted by friends as I struggle to study in the library. Even with an invitation, I still struggled in making friends. And, even without an invitation, I was blessed with friends (Lam 3:22-24).

While compiling the invitation list for our wedding, I learned how some invitations, though self-evident still need to be proclaimed. I thought it was a matter of fact that our wedding party and intimate family members were invited to our wedding. Still I was instructed to send wedding invitations to each. Though the invitations were crafted on my parent’s kitchen table, with their names neatly printed on the stationary, it was important that an invitation be individually addressed and delivered to them. Expectations and assumptions can lead to misjudgments and miscommunications, which can lead to hurts and hang-ups. It can be painfully annoying to repeatedly remind a person of your desire to include them in your life. But, the word remembrance (Is. 46) draws me to recall the countless ways God pursues me, even after I received salvation, which he does not consider painfully annoying. If you have a way to extend an invitation, I’d encourage you to use it (Heb. 12:14).

Later, while on a jog, I thought about the daunting task of inviting people to a wedding. I was half-way down the street when I came to a realization. My rhymed breathing and motion abruptly halted. In the middle of the street, in front of an unknown neighbor’s house tears trickled down my face. Drafting the invitation list had made me worry about who would and wouldn’t attend our wedding. Then, I remembered my father in heaven, who had not yet received an individual invitation to my wedding. If my earthly parents, who were responsible for many aspects of the wedding, still deserved a personal invitation, why would I stop with them and not reach up to my heavenly father? Immediately I extended Him an invitation. Even quicker, he spoke an affirmation. This exchange birthed a peace that I have been told is rare for a bride to experience (Matthew 28). Humanity may or may not accept your invitation(s), for a right or wrong reason. When the time comes to reach out to others, make it a point to follow God no matter their response (Romans 8). God wants to walk with you down the path of righteousness. He will be apart of anything on that path. You don’t need to invite him to your wedding, or whatever else, but why not?

It is important to extend invitations. And, while it is so encouraging to be invited, do not be overcome by the emotions that arise from the lack of invitations. Be wise and dwell on truth. Don’t build barriers that will hinder God’s blessings. (Rom. 12:2)

Psalm 40:1-3
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
      and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
      out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
      and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
      a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
      They will put their trust in the Lord.

Psalm 27:14
Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Lamentations 3:22-24
The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

Isaiah 46:23-25
You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings, nor honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with grain offerings nor wearied you with demands for incense. You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me, or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses. "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.
Hebrews 12:14
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

Matthew 28:19-20
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Romans 8:31
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How do you wear a bobby pin?

Did you know that there are two ways to wear a bobby pin? “There is only one way,” you impulsively declare. No, there are two. The right way and the wrong way. “Okay, I can agree with you on that. For every way to do something right, there is a way to do something wrong,” you counter. Don’t get smart with me. For the last several years I have worn a bobby pin the wrong way, thinking it was the right way. You should be more considerate. (Okay, I will stop with the imaginary conversation).

A story must be shared to properly explain how I fell so far away from knowing right from wrong, in relation to bobby pins…that is what we are talking about, right?

Once upon a time, before the Internet was commonly used, when pigtails and hula hoops ruled, there was a girl. Though the girl did not live in a stone castle with a balcony, she believed herself to be a princess. She had five maids at beckon call and a real live dress-up dog.

Each day the princess, I mean girl, was dressed by the wise queen, I mean her mom. Fortunately the queen knew the right way to place a bobby pin in her daughter’s hair. In fact, the queen was so wise she ensured to comb and style her daughter’s hair so that the daughter would deeply desire to comb and style her own hair. The wise mother knew that each burn from the curling iron and tug from the comb encouraged her daughter to break free. You see, the queen did not mind combing and styling her daughter’s hair, but hoped for her daughter to grow up and take responsibility of her beauty, especially if she was to marry a prince one day.

Upon her seventh birthday, the girl was free to dress herself. For 20ish years the girl continued to dress herself. She had mediocre skills and eventually attracted the heart of a prince, whom she later married.

More about the girl: On the inside was a woman that Glamour would rave about. However, feeble hands and an uncanny naivety of fashion kept Mrs. Prim and Proper inside. Stacy and Clinton from What Not to Wear would surely be challenged by this broad. She desired to have class, yet longed for comfort. Yes, it is unfortunate description.

One day the girl sought the advice from a wise Counselor. She was in a deep dilemma. She was frustrated that her Glamour girl could not be aroused. She had tried curlers, wasted mascara, and toyed with bangs. She asked the Counselor, “How can I get the Glamour girl inside me to show herself?” The Counselor looked at her, deeply concerned. He understood her question and loved her. The girl did not know that her beauty was the comfort extended to others that draws strangers to smile, not the lipstick applied to enhance her smile. As I said, she sought comfort, yet it was not comfort for herself. She desired to be a comforter.

You probably assumed that the mother wanted the daughter to break free in order to have more time to eat bon-bons. Remember the mother was wise, which means she had knowledge and understanding above the ways of the world. She prepared her daughter to crave a beauty greater than one only describable by physical measures. You probably assumed that the daughter was able to comb her hair at age seven, and that is why her mother released her. However, it was at age seven when the daughter believed in Jesus Christ, and received the Holy Spirit. The mother knew that the Holy Spirit would take the responsibility of instructing her daughter, therefore she released her. Also, it is important to know, that to the wise mother, beauty was this, to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord.

Did you know that our understanding is fallible? That is probably why I did not know the right way to wear a bobby pin! That is also why I struggle with beauty. One day I want beauty the worlds’ way, the next I need it God’s way. Every right way, according to the world, is a wrong way according to God. We must be transformed by the Lord. He is loving and helps us to stay on his path. Just as the mother burned and tugged at the girls hair, which grew a desire for the girl to break free, so does God refine our hearts and tug at our desires, to keep Christ at the center of our heart. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Let God Give

I hope to continue my thoughts on romanticism soon. But I must share an enlightening experience. It was a moment when God, in his resounding glory, graciously encouraged me. He reminded me of his presence and his determination to be apart of my life. Theses moments could be quickly forgotten, yet I engrave them onto a stone (hypothetically – I really just write them down) and add them to my Joshua pile of memorial stones.

As you know, I have been searching for a job. I followed my husband up to Illinois, in order for him to attend seminary, a benefit not just for him or me, but (Lord willingly) for those we will serve  in the future. Many things are aligning on his end, the job, the school schedule (PTL). Yet, I still wait for God to align things on my end, a job in particular would be nice. I have been fortunate to have a few interviews. Interviews are tough for me. I lament, literally, before each interview, ensuring that God knows he is invited, expected, to attend. Each time he is faithful. I return from the interview and again pour out my heart. I continue to insistently ask him to close the door on any position not of his will. It is a fear of mine to be out of God’s will, because I ultimately fear failure…which is a guarantee outside of God’s will. I have continued to say, “Not my will, but yours”…I shout “Take it away”. Yet, God in his grace and love for me has not closed the door, he continues to open it. I feel like I am walking down a long hallway of doorways. I have uncertainty in myself, yet he continues to open door after door. Yesterday, I returned from an interview, understanding that it would be likely that the position would be formally offered soon, and again I say, “Not my will but yours.” That is when he said something like, “You have mastered accepting my will when it involves me taking from you, but what about receiving. Let me give to you.”  My heart felt his love, and understood his frustration. I am sure parents delight in a child’s submission, yet they also live (literally earn an income) to bless their child. I am God’s child, his “income” is Christ (which was not a life earned, but a life given). 

I am unsure which door will open next, but a giving God does. Yes, he requests, he earnestly desires and hopes, for us to submit unto his will, yet he also asks us to receive his blessings. There are seasons when you may find yourself in a hallway like mine. It may not be a job search, it may be another decision involving relationships, ministry or finances. In those time, it is important to walk with God. In his presence all uncertainty will fade. Fear may not go away immediately, but as your spend more time with God, your emotions will change and you will be enabled to be present and choose his will.  Then you will know when a door is closing, and when He is indeed opening another.  

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Romance of Fall

What is a hopeless romantic? To answer that question, I enlisted the help of, whose words are defined by everyday people.

Hopeless: “A person who has no hope with the opposite sex.” Keep in mind my source is of the world, and therefore narrowed in certain subjects. I would add that a person could be hopeless for many other surface reasons. However, the true reason we feel incapable, without hope, is in result of our design to be with God. Dig deep into the recesses of your desires, surface reasons are just shadows of the true reason.

Romantic: “A romantic is a person who believes in romanticism, which is like a philosophy on life. Romantics love nature, old things like castles and churches, love poetry and beauty, and have a tendency to get carried away by ideas. This can be both bad and good, as most of the original romantics stood up for their beliefs and greatly helped England, but also went to help people in revolutions and got killed. They also tend to get randomly depressed, but this is because the weather and colors and beautiful things make them act differently than others.” Romanticism is beautiful and thrilling. It is the excitement you experience as the seasons change, the sights of fall shown in the changing colors of leaves, the hope of fall in the promise for colder temperatures that will draw your loved ones close, the taste of fall when you buy your first candy corns of the season, or the scent of fall when you walk into Starbucks and smell pumpkin spice coffee brewing.  You can not deny it, from the toughest to the most weak in the knees, we are romanced.

Hopeless Romantic: “This person is in love with love. They believe in fairy tales and love. They're not to be confused as stalkers or creepy because that's not what a hopeless romantic is. All hopeless romantics are idealists, the sentimental dreamers, the imaginative and the fanciful when you get to know them. They often live with rose-colored glasses on. They make love look like an art form with all the romantic things they do for their special someone.” I cannot fight the temptation. I must name Meg Ryan as the epitome of a hopeless romantic. There are many others too, maybe you and me. When a girl starts to date a boy, and describes him to her friends as a hopeless romantic, a longing sigh is released from all within hearing. We woman are won over by a man that is a hopeless romantic…that is if we are the one he is hopeless for.

Urban Dictionary did not have a definition for a hopeful romantic. I typed ‘hopeful romantic’ into their search engine and was directed toward hopeless romantic as being a close match. According to Urban Dictionary, hopeful is to desire with the belief of possibly obtaining. One person commented that it is the feeling right before hopeless. It is interesting how the two definitions, hopeless and hopeful, intertwine. Yet, they remain two difference words, I believe for a reason. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping with my husband is an art. It takes a certain strategic intellect combined with a determined poker face (both of which I am still perfecting) to shop with him. If the peace treaties in Paris took place in a grocery store and diplomat’s haggled over produce instead of war crimes, it would look something like a Fontenot shopping trip. One time we were in a grocery story for almost two hours! Recently, we moved from Texas to Illinois. In many ways we are experiencing learning curves, one of which is with grocery shopping. Growing up, I can not recall my father paying attention to the fluctuating price of a tomato. Therefore, I was surprised when I first shopped with Jon. He pays close attention to everything from the unit price to the brand name. His meticulous behavior reminds me of Raymond in Rainman. “Look, the tomatoes are cheaper this week than last week,” he will excitedly report to me. Recently I insisted that we buy a carton of grapes. Before I can place them in the cart, he says to me, “Do you really plan to eat those grapes?” “Of course!” I say in an exasperated tone. As if he had a super discernment power, he was right. While I ate most of the grapes, I found them to have an old taste, many were thrown away behind his back. I wonder, did his comment or the old tasted spoil my enjoyment? Maybe both. I did not bite into the grapes, enjoying their succulent taste, like I normally would have done. I ate them whole with a determination to prove him wrong!  A week later we set out for the store. I mention wanting to buy some carrots, to which he reminds me of the grapes. I claim that his judgment was wrong and that I fully intend to finish all the grapes…. Which, a week later, are still in the fridge. I probably will throw them out tomorrow while he is in class. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sweet Spots

Yesterday I had an interview with a church for an administrative assistant position. During my interview, the interviewer continued to speak about finding your sweet spot, which are spots or areas you are most gravitated towards (It is important to note that the gravitation pull is in result of your ability, not the things your imaginary self is good at, which are called seeking spots).  I believe seeking spots are okay to dance in, yet it is the sweet spots we need to stand firm in, rooted in the ability that God graciously gives.

High points of the day:
Waking up beside my dear with a sweet smile on his face
Going to campus with Jon, I’m soaking up my time with him while I can
Coming home to bags of groceries from our neighbor (PLT)
Going to the park for a run and to play ball with Chance
Finished reading Thin Places, a great memoir
Talking with my mom and sister – Miss them both!

Low points of the day:
The job search continues
It will be pretty chilly tonight (in the 50s)
Realizing that the family fun in Texas continues with and without us
Neck continues to be in pain

Ending note: We have some hot potatoes ready to eat and I’m looking forward to it!