Monday, December 20, 2010

The truth about our marriage

For our wedding, Jon and I planted a plant to represent our coming together as one. Our mothers each picked a plant that was carried down our wedding aisle in separate flower pots. After we said our wedding vows, we kneeled to combine the plants into one pot. Then we joined hands to pray our first prayer together as husband and wife.

And, while our marriage is alive and well, our unity plant is dead. If our life was a Hollywood picture, it would be only a matter of time before our marriage dissolved like. However, I am not Rachel McAdams and Jon is not Brad Pitt. Yet, each time Chance chews on the deadly remains of our plant I have to say to myself “That does not reflect our marriage.” And, though I chuckle as I say it, it is an encouragement I need to hear. I know my life is not a Hollywood movie, but sometimes, because I watch so many of them, I believe that my life is the latest screenplay. Symbolism moves life along on the big screen. Doom is foreshadowed by a deadly plant.

I need to remember who determines the story of my life. I need to remember that my life already has a happily ever after ending. I need to be focused on the story of Jesus instead of my story. I need to realize that my actions in accordance to God’s will adds progressed the Emily Fontenot motion picture. I am so glad that when Jon and I prayed our first prayer together, it was not for a plant to be strengthened and ever enduring, it was for our marriage to be filled with God’s power and promise.

My friend asked me to be a part of their wedding by being a apart of their wedding laso tradition. This will symbolize their unity. As I thought more and more about it, I became more and more humbled by the significance of my friend’s request. I have been a bridesmaid many times, but this is a first. The weight of responsibility began to wear on me as I sought to acquire the object that would represent the wedded couple’s unity. I searched and searched for an item that portrayed the beauty of the couple. And when I had no luck in shopping, I stepped out on a limb and actually made a wedding lasso (totally outside of my comfort zone – but now I have a new hobby :). I went to Michaels for supplies, when I told the clerk heard what I was doing, she said “Ohhh, God bless you,” to which I said “Yes! God bless me, I need his help.” God was faithful and by his grace I was able to create a beautiful token. Yet the fears continued. Will they like it? Will it bust in the middle of the ceremony? And the typical fear, what sort of shame will I be led to endure?

But, last night as I was putting the finishing touches on the masterpiece God created through me, and I realized…he created it, not me. In awe, I stopped and reflected at my inability and his ability. I remembered that while God does dish out his fair share of challenges, he also lavishes a great abundance of mercy and grace upon me, most notable when mighty things happen despite my ability (which happens so often). And because of this, I have hope that the God who began a good work in me will bring it to completion.

The lasso turned out to be beautiful thing. Which is just it - it’s a thing. When it comes down to it, shouldn’t I be more concerned about what it symbolizes. And praying that the couple would reflect what it symbolizes.

There are so many good symbols (especially wedding types one) to represent our commitments, but a symbol does not secure a reality, your actions do. Symbols represent a reality we wish to guide our lives by. However, the way you live your life, not the symbol you have acquired, truly reflects reality. Therefore, when you find a symbol that you want to represent your life don’t just acquire it, live it out.

I am so thankful that the truth of our marriage is not found in a withering plant, but in the way we love and respect eachother and seek to serve and honor God.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Loving the scrooges in your Christmas season

Christmas is a wonderful time of year for many. And for many others, it is not a wonderful time of year. This season God especially prickled my heart to pray for those in the later category. While I have always given abundantly during the holidays and spread Christmas cheer from stranger to friend, I know I can do more. Actually, it’s not about doing more it’s about doing what I should have always done first. Giving gifts is a great idea but gifts preceded with prayer…wow that is truly impacting! Remember that gift giving was first God’s idea!

And while needs for others and ourselves seem immense, and they are especially revealed during this season, pairing praying and gift giving adds power to our gifts or nonexistent gifts that we hoped to give but were not able to due to finances.

This year especially God has burden my heart to pray for the known needs of people I don’t know. Sounds weird right?! Its about knowing the true reality that people are cold, hungry, with out family, dealing with a loss during Christmas for the first time, ect, and though I cant  put a face to the need I pray anyways because God can put a face to a need. 

While we all can think of a person that reminds us of the mean scrooge portrayed in A Christmas Carol, don't forget that underneath Scrooge's facade was a lonely human being. And then there are all those who are hurting and don't wear Scrooge's mean facade. We tend to want to help these more, but the mean scrooges need love as well. The mean scrooges are just testing you, if you hang in there they will drop their countenance and smile at you. I’ve seen this so many times and it wipes away any mean remark they spat at me.

So let the scrooges try to ruffle your feathers and as they poke you and they prod you, you will say “You, Mr. Scrooge are more important than me” as he cuts you off in his roadster, as he grabs the last carton of egg nog, as he smirks at you and runs past you in the Christmas version of the Amazing race that we all compete in each year. You won’t care when you draw the short straw and are the last instead of the first, it will be a delight.

Lets get back to preceding our gifts with prayer or substituting or gifts with prayer. Just like the wise man asked the angel, “How will we find this Christ,” I know you are asking, “How do we find these people to pray for. If your eyes are open wide you will not need to look far?” They can be found as easily as the wise men found Christ by looking to the Star.

But getting by In Christ through Christmas is more than about dealing with scrooges it is about giving as a remember ace of God’s gift.…
From a young age my mom and I would go through the same struggle each year. While I did my fair share of griping for certain gifts I hoped would end up under the Christmas tree I also begged my mom to allow me to give gifts to my neighbors, school friends, strangers, family, etc. Yes, my poor mother. We would haggle first on who we were able to purchase a gift for and second on the amount I could spend on the gifts. Our family did not have a large income so I don't know what I was thinking to ask my mother of so much. And I am still going through that struggle today with my husband. If you are like me, and love to give, Christmas can be overwhelming. And even if you are not like me, the Christmas season can cause certain spiritual gifts to poke at your heart more prominently than during other seasons. So, what do you do if you have a giver's heart and not a lot of cash? Pray for them. I know it sounds weird. A prayer sounds like a shabby gift but it really is the best gift to give. You don’t even have to let them know you prayed for them as their Christmas gift. I know, it takes away from giving something tangible, especially if you don't tell them...but treasure and tangible are not the same.

Shouldn’t our Christmas gifts be similar the Christmas gift we are all celebrating, the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Which, if your think about it, is there anything tangible about that? You can’t hang Jesus on the wall or place him prominently on your hand. He isn’t a yummy treat to eat or something new to wear. When I think about tangible outcomes of God’s Christmas gift all I see is the cross Christ hung upon for our sins. So how did Christmas become a season wrapped up in tangible gift giving? I’m not saying gift giving is wrong (we writers like to portray the extreme).  But we have made it a display of wealth instead of love. Even if you don’t worry about the gifts you receive, you still worry about the gifts you give.

But even the gifts from the wise men don’t represent a gift of equality. Their gold, frankincense, and myrrh were nothing compared to God’s gift. They were just trying to give from their own riches to honor the king. So often I try to give a gift that represent equality. I consider what the recipient may give me try to match their gift degree. Its so silly, but true! And it definitely does not help me be a good steward of what God has given me because there are many people I know that I will never match their gift degree.

And with that, Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Graduation and a grave reality

I remember graduating from college, landing my first big job, and….calculating the time I would spend with friends and family versus the time I would spend with a bunch of strangers at work. A grave reality was delivered to me that day.

All my life my day’s activities had been in the company of friends. Algebra brought its fair share of stresses but was bearable because I sat with friends and we would pass the time memorizing the fast and tactful lyrics of Third Eye Blind (sometimes we applied our skills towards memorizing math equations). I remember the last time I sat in the Sombrilla as a student. I didn’t want the moment to end, I sat surrounded by friends, the laughter and pure joy was elating.

After graduation I embarked on an intensive job search. (A funny parallel: Church search vs Job search…On a church search you will generally run into very warm and inviting people, this is not the case with a job search.) If you know a person looking for a job, pray for them and wait for them to update you – sometimes the continual questions from friends and family can be wearing.

I was super fortunate to be offered a job shortly into the search and even more blessed that it was one I wanted (again notice the differences between a job search and a church search :) My job was driven by a mission I supported, focused on a task I was able to accomplish (with training), and paired me with –now I can surely say –a great group of colleagues.

…But many my Class of 2008 friends did not experience the same joys. Here is a fact for you: It is rare that your first job will be your dream job; actually make that your first three or five jobs. This is why the phrase “career path” was coined.

Job discontent (struggle or strife) became the new buzz prayer request, for many others and myself. After many conversations, I noticed a resounding reason for job discontent…Your job involves a responsibility that may not align completely with your desires (which encompasses a discontent for the limited amount of disposable time a full-time job offers).

In light of all this, what can you do? Reexamine your situation. What was the last thing God directed you towards? Has he directed you towards anything new? Live out your faithfulness unto God. Adultery is most known as an act that occurs in marriage, but the idea can be attributed to your career – the act of getting a job, then searching for a new one, then getting it, then searching for a new one. Grow your faithfulness-muscle, so that whenever (whether in marriage or career) you run into discontent you are able to face it and not run from it.

It is especially hard to be a worker bee in a secular society. Here is what you can do….

“Fix up your office like your going to stay for awhile, make yourself home there. Bring your lunch so that you can eat with everyone else. Put some pictures of your loved ones up around your desk and open up your life when you get a chance to do it. Work hard for your boss as if you are working for the Lord himself because this will gain the respect of everyone around you. Study your field diligently until you become an expert at it and doing this you will be seeking the prosperity and peace of your company because if you help it to prosper you too will prosper.” (Shane Farmer, Willow Creek, Troublemakers series)