Category Archives: Joy

The Extravagant, Irrational Point.

JCP_3997

[Today is my Dad’s birthday! In his honor, I’m re-posting a blog that I wrote about him months ago. I love you, Daddy!]

My Mom tells me that when she was pregnant with me, my Daddy desperately wanted a girl from day one. She originally wanted a boy, but seeing how much my Dad hoped for a little girl made her hope for one too. I like to remind them that I fulfilled all of their pink tinted dreams simply by being born.

My Dad has long been the man I’ve looked up to the most in the world. I didn’t understand what a precious gift that was until high school, when I came to the startling realization that not every little girl grew up wanting to marry somebody like her Daddy. I watched friends reel with the sting of being overlooked and hurt by their Dads, and something in me just couldn’t understand it. Where other girls looked at their Dads and only saw pain, all I could ever see when I looked at mine were a thousand burned and rather salty chocolate chip cookies that he choked down over lemon-water tea parties with a smile. I saw a man who was reading his Bible when I woke up every morning. A man who determined when I was a very little girl that he would buy me more flowers than any other man on the planet—and thus far, no contender has even come CLOSE. I have an overflowing stack of dried flowers from my Dad sitting on top of a dresser in my old room, and the first time Kellan saw them he was so disheartened that  he didn’t buy me so much as a carnation for a solid year. [He’s rallied.]

As the years spun on, I looked at my Dad and saw a man who would take me out for overpriced lattes and let me rant or cry or float about whatever it was that was stirring the still waters of my world. I saw a man who would patiently, wisely counsel me when I had questions or was hurting. I saw a man who encouraged me to hop a plane to West Africa for two years, not because it was safe or he wanted me gone, but because he fervently believed that Jesus was better than being comfortable. It was a lesson I’d learned simply from observing his life over the course of mine. I looked at my Dad, and I saw a hero. Not perfect, but perfect to be mine.

The past year has revealed new things about my Dad. I look at him today, and see a man who fitfully slept in an uncomfortable recliner by his son’s hospital bed every single night that Ian was there so he would never be alone. [And over the course of a five month bout with cancer, there were many.]  A man who would switch off with my Mom during the day and instead of running home to sleep in an actual bed, would go to work or take my little sister Emily to ballet. I remember during the last week of Ian’s final three week stay in the ICU, I walked into my parent’s house one morning and saw my Dad sitting at the living room table. He hadn’t really slept in weeks, and in fact had barely left the ICU at all. Confused as to why he wasn’t taking a nap or at least eating a meal that hadn’t come wrapped in paper, I asked him what he was doing.

He was working on his sermon for my wedding. Honey, I really enjoy this. I’m really excited about your wedding! He said it with a smile.

It was the same man that left the hospital just long enough to buy me a bouquet of roses on Valentine’s day. The same man that insisted that we practice our waltz over and over again in the kitchen even JCP_3351though he was unspeakably exhausted, and the world outside of our front door was crumbling into a thousand irretrievable pieces. Our waltz was still important to him because I never stopped being important to him.

That’s just my Dad. I look at him today and see a man that confidently, brokenly, humbly reminded me in the whitewashed hallway outside of room 17 in the ICU that if God chose not to heal Ian, it would not be because He didn’t love us or hadn’t heard us. I knew that he meant it because he had spent his life teaching me that God is a good Father. It was a lesson that I never found hard to believe, because I already had one.

To you Daddies out there—especially y’all with little girls—buy her flowers. Buy her so many flowers that no other man will ever be able to compete. They are expensive and unnecessary and will die in a week and that is the extravagant, irrational point. It is through your extravagant, irrational love that she will begin to understand the way that Jesus loves her. Eat everything that she proudly hands you as she’s learning to bake, and every once in a while ask for seconds. Wear the feather boa AND the floppy hat, and cheers her stuffed bunny rabbit when she invites you to tea. Tell her that she looks just beautiful every single morning. Let her see you read your Bible, but more importantly, let her see you value the God that gave it to you. Value that God above all of his gifts—above her Mother, above a comfortable life, above keeping her safe. Push her to follow Jesus wherever He leads. Remind her that God is good no matter what it feels like—whether a boy hurts her feelings or her little brother is dying. God longs for your daughter to know how He treasures and adores her through you.

And if you have questions about any of this, feel free to give my Daddy a call. He’s pretty great at it.

Happy Father’s day to the greatest one that I have ever known!  I love you, Daddy.

JCP_4006 bw

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Ryah’s Miracle.

My friends Aaron and Stephanie are adopting a little girl from Ethiopia. Y’all. LOOK.

Ryah

For legal reasons, we’re not allowed to show you Ryah’s face until her adoption process is complete.

Her name is Ryah. I talked to Stephanie last night, and she told me that Ryah spends her days sitting alone in her crib because there aren’t enough nannies at her orphanage to take care of all of the kids. Ryah is one of five MILLION orphans in Ethiopia. My husband didn’t believe that when I told him, and went to investigate it for himself. His eyes darkened when he looked up from his cell phone with dismay—“Babe, it’s true.” Five million orphans in a country with little access to clean water or healthcare, where 1 in 10 children die before their first birthday, and 1 in 6 before their fifth.

As Christians, we don’t get to stand idly by and call these people our “brothers and sisters” when we would NEVER allow our biological brothers and sisters to wither away in an orphanage wondering why nobody wanted them. Never.

Isaiah 49:13-16 “For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”

Though this little Ethiopian girl sitting alone in her crib doesn’t know it yet, God sees her and He is rescuing her. Ryah doesn’t know yet that she has a Mommy and a Daddy who are coming for her. A Mommy and Daddy that pray for her a thousand times a day, and even more as they lay awake at night longing to bring her home. Ryah has no idea that Goodnight Moon and pancakes with blueberry smiles are on their way. She can’t yet understand that two people that call her daughter want nothing more than to proudly tape her princess coloring pages to the refrigerator and play tea party and hold her just a little longer than necessary while they rock her to sleep. She doesn’t know yet that she is desperately loved–but oh, she will! She will because God SEES. He SEES that precious little Ethiopian girl sitting alone in her crib, and she is not a statistic to Him. The same God that lovingly created her and saves every tear that she has ever cried has plans for a hope and a future for Ryah. He has not forgotten her.

Ryah’s story reminds me that God has not forgotten you and me, either. We might not see the story He is writing for us, but it is good. And while we might have to sit in the orphanage for a time, He sees. He never leaves, and everything that He authors is good. Even when it feels like we have been forgotten.

Let’s talk about miracles. Do you know what I love about Jesus’ miracles? All of them were restorative.  Jesus walked around with us, and his heart just shattered over the brokenness that surrounded him. He saw the world He’d created in pieces-not at all like He’d intended it to be. And so where others ignored the throbbing pain, this GOOD God stepped right into what was broken. He stopped beside a blind man begging, and gave him sight. He told the lame man to get up and WALK. He fed hungry people and raised Mary and Martha’s brother back to life. Why? Because God is in the business of restoring what has been broken. He never created us to be blind or hungry or to get sick or orphaned-and he was giving aching humanity just a taste of the redemption He has in store for us. Jesus was restoring pieces of the brokenness to what He intended all along-something that will be complete when He returns.

Restoring broken things? I can get behind that. And I’ll bet you can too.

Here, you and I have the chance to be a part of  Ryah’s miracle. We have a chance to be a part of the redemption and restoration that God is working throughout the world—we have a chance to give a little girl that thinks that she has been forgotten in an Ethiopian orphanage a FAMILY. A Mommy and Daddy to take a thousand proud pictures of ballet recitals and a first day of kindergarten. We can give her drippy ice cream cones on long summer days, father daughter dates, stuffed animal tea parties and Saturday morning cartoons. We can be a part of bringing this little girl from death to life. This is the very heart of adoption and the very heart of God Himself. And goodness, do I want it to be my heart.

Here is what I’m asking. Aaron and Stephanie have been in the process of adopting for three long years-years that have been expensive, and have financially exhausted them. They are close to bringing their little girl home, but they need our help. Would you consider giving any amount of money to bring Ryah home? Whether it’s giving up a five dollar latte or a fifty dollar date night out or a hundred dollars or a thousand-anything at all would be an enormous encouragement to this sweet family, and a precious reminder to Ryah one day that God saw her. God saw her and used us to be a part of rescuing her. I don’t know about you, but there is nothing that is more thrilling to my heart.

Regardless of whether or not you give, would you please consider sharing this blog? The more people that hear about Ryah and give, the faster we can bring her home.

Thank you for considering being a part of Ryah’s miracle. To give, please click here.

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The Extravagant, Irrational Point.

JCP_3997My Mom tells me that when she was pregnant with me, my Daddy desperately wanted a girl from day one. She originally wanted a boy, but seeing how much my Dad hoped for a little girl made her hope for one too. I like to remind them that I fulfilled all of their pink tinted dreams simply by being born.

My Dad has long been the man I’ve looked up to the most in the world. I didn’t understand what a precious gift that was until high school, when I came to the startling realization that not every little girl grew up wanting to marry somebody like her Daddy. I watched friends reel with the sting of being overlooked and hurt by their Dads, and something in me just couldn’t understand it. Where other girls looked at their Dads and only saw pain, all I could ever see when I looked at mine were a thousand burned and rather salty chocolate chip cookies that he choked down over lemon-water tea parties with a smile. I saw a man who was reading his Bible when I woke up every morning. A man who determined when I was a very little girl that he would buy me more flowers than any other man on the planet—and thus far, no contender has even come CLOSE. I have an overflowing stack of dried flowers from my Dad sitting on top of a dresser in my old room, and the first time Kellan saw them he was so disheartened that  he didn’t buy me so much as a carnation for a solid year. [He’s rallied.]

As the years spun on, I looked at my Dad and saw a man who would take me out for overpriced lattes and let me rant or cry or float about whatever it was that was stirring the still waters of my world. I saw a man who would patiently, wisely counsel me when I had questions or was hurting. I saw a man who encouraged me to hop a plane to West Africa for two years, not because it was safe or he wanted me gone, but because he fervently believed that Jesus was better than being comfortable. It was a lesson I’d learned simply from observing his life over the course of mine. I looked at my Dad, and I saw a hero. Not perfect, but perfect to be mine.

The past year has revealed new things about my Dad. I look at him today, and see a man who fitfully slept in an uncomfortable recliner by his son’s hospital bed every single night that Ian was there so he would never be alone. [And over the course of a five month bout with cancer, there were many.]  A man who would switch off with my Mom during the day and instead of running home to sleep in an actual bed, would go to work or take my little sister Emily to ballet. I remember during the last week of Ian’s final three week stay in the ICU, I walked into my parent’s house one morning and saw my Dad sitting at the living room table. He hadn’t really slept in weeks, and in fact had barely left the ICU at all. Confused as to why he wasn’t taking a nap or at least eating a meal that hadn’t come wrapped in paper, I asked him what he was doing.

He was working on his sermon for my wedding. Honey, I really enjoy this. I’m really excited about your wedding! He said it with a smile.

It was the same man that left the hospital just long enough to buy me a bouquet of roses on Valentine’s day. The same man that insisted that we practice our waltz over and over again in the kitchen even JCP_3351though he was unspeakably exhausted, and the world outside of our front door was crumbling into a thousand irretrievable pieces. Our waltz was still important to him because I never stopped being important to him.

That’s just my Dad. I look at him today and see a man that confidently, brokenly, humbly reminded me in the whitewashed hallway outside of room 17 in the ICU that if God chose not to heal Ian, it would not be because He didn’t love us or hadn’t heard us. I knew that he meant it because he had spent his life teaching me that God is a good Father. It was a lesson that I never found hard to believe, because I already had one.

To you Daddies out there—especially y’all with little girls—buy her flowers. Buy her so many flowers that no other man will ever be able to compete. They are expensive and unnecessary and will die in a week and that is the extravagant, irrational point. It is through your extravagant, irrational love that she will begin to understand the way that Jesus loves her. Eat everything that she proudly hands you as she’s learning to bake, and every once in a while ask for seconds. Wear the feather boa AND the floppy hat, and cheers her stuffed bunny rabbit when she invites you to tea. Tell her that she looks just beautiful every single morning. Let her see you read your Bible, but more importantly, let her see you value the God that gave it to you. Value that God above all of his gifts—above her Mother, above a comfortable life, above keeping her safe. Push her to follow Jesus wherever He leads. Remind her that God is good no matter what it feels like—whether a boy hurts her feelings or her little brother is dying. God longs for your daughter to know how He treasures and adores her through you.

And if you have questions about any of this, feel free to give my Daddy a call. He’s pretty great at it.

Happy Father’s day to the greatest one that I have ever known!  I love you, Daddy.

JCP_4006 bw

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Cancer Sucks. Jesus Does Not.

DSC_0120When someone that you love is as sick as my little brother is, it’s easy to think of a clean bill of health as the very best thing. It’s understandable, really—there is nothing that I would not trade to see Ian healed of the cancer that wracks his body, and I am confident that there are people that you love of whom you would say the same. But as my family walks through the hell that is cancer, I become more and more convinced that health is not, in fact, the very best thing.

Please don’t misunderstand me—I long for Ian to be healed. I pray fervently for that very thing every single day. But you see, there’s a tension as I sit and wait with my little brother. It would be simple for me to muddy the idea of redemption from our circumstances and redemption from our sins. As my family spends our days anxiously awaiting the next round of test results, I desperately want to believe that God’s best plan for my family is Ian’s physical healing. The reality, however, is that our need—your need—is so much deeper than that.

You and I and Ian aren’t sick people that need healthy bodies– we are dead people that need life breathed into them. At the end of the day, our deepest need is not for healthy bodies, it is for life! Before Jesus, we are hopelessly dead in our sins. Dead. Have you ever thought about that? A dead man can do nothing for himself—he is beyond help. Forgotten. Lost. With each passing day, his memory grows more and more faint until nobody remembers that he ever existed at all. He is of no consequence, and certainly nobody would ever think to try and revive him. There is, after all, no hope for a dead man.

You and I are DEAD without Jesus– and our ONLY hope rests in God mercifully, lovingly, rescuing sinners like us that deserved to be forever left in the death of their rebellion. Our hope is in Immanuel-God WITH us! A holy God coming to earth to live the life that we could not live, and die the death that we deserved to die. By taking our place, Jesus has reconciled sinful man to a holy God. And even in the midst of cancer I will tell you that more than promising test results, more than an immune system that works, more than remission and a clean bill of health-we need Jesus. We need Him to take us from death to life.

As 2013 looms before you, I don’t know what your “cancer” is.  I do know that the hopelessness that strangles us is the ugly fruit of our inability to trust that God is incapable of being anything but good to us, and that His mercies are new every single morning. And while God’s goodness towards us is not always what we want, it is always what we need.  Joy is a defiant “Nevertheless” in the face of unspeakable pain. Cancer may wrack our bodies, but there is a God that sees, pursues, and loves us with an everlasting love. If He knows every curly blonde hair that used to be on Ian’s head, He certainly saw us shave them all off. And while I don’t know much, I know that Jesus loves Ian more than I do. And I know what Ian and I need most is Jesus. A healthy body means nothing if our souls are dead.

If you don’t know Jesus-really know Him—He is what you need. More than rescue from your circumstances, you need to be brought from death to life.

We won’t stop confessing He is good and we won’t stop thanking Him for grace and we won’t stop holding out our hands — and taking His hand. We won’t stop believing that ‘God is good’ is not some trite quip for the good days but a radical defiant cry for the terrible days. That ‘God is good’ is not a stale one-liner when all’s happy but a saving lifeline when all’s hard.” -Ann Voskamp

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That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

I think it’s easy to get through Christmas, and totally miss Jesus. In the spirit of avoiding that this year, some friends and I have taken the gospel summary in Elyse Fitzpatrick’s “Because He Loves Me”, and committed to reading through it every day. Y’all. This is long, and it’s beautiful. Our hearts need this.

Emmanuel. God with us! Have yourself a merry little Christmas, now. :)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. [Eph. 1:3-6]

By the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners. [Romans 5:19]

For there is no distinction;…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. [Romans 3:22-23]

In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. [Genesis 12:3]

Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…[was] born in the likeness of men. [Phil. 2:5-7]

Her offspring…shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. [Genesis 3:15]

Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! [Luke 1:28]

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. [Luke 1:30-32]

The time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. [Luke 2:6-7]

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people, For unto you is born this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. [Luke 2:10-11]

So by the one man’s obedience, the many will be made righteous. [Romans 5:19]

Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” [Matt. 21:37]

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. [Isa. 9:6]

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. [Isa. 53:2]

You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. [Luke 3:22]

Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son [as was supposed] of Joseph…the son of Adam, the son of God. [Luke 3:23, 38]

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. [Luke 4:18-19]

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. [Isa. 53:3]

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. [John 1:11]

He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil. [Acts 10:38]

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. [John 3:14-15]

Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. [Isa. 52:13]

You are the Christ, the Son of the living God….Blessed are you….For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father. [Matt. 16:16-17]

Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me? [John 14:9]

Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. [Matt. 16:23]

Jesus…made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant. [Phil. 2:5, 7]

He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. [John 13:4-5]

One of you will betray me. [John 13:21]

You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ [Mark 14:27]

 

“If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same. [Mark 14:31]

“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” [Matt. 26:38]

And…he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” [Matt. 26:39]

“So, could you not watch with me one hour?” [Matt. 26:40]

“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” [Matt. 26:42]

He…found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. [Matt. 26:43]

“See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” [Matt. 26:45]

“Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” [Luke 22:48]

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me….Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” [Zech. 13:7]

And they all left him and fled. [Mark 14:50]

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? [Rom. 8:32]

Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. [Mark 14:55]

“Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” “I am.” [Mark 14:61-62]

“You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” “I am not.” [John 18:17

“This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.” [Matt. 21:38]

“What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows. [Mark 14:63-65]

His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind. [Isa. 52:14]

“You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world.” [John 18:37]

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace…and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. [Mark 15:16-19]

So jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” [John 19:4-6]

“Behold your King!” [John 19:14]

“Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your King?” “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. [John 19:15-16]

And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. [Mark 15:20]

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull….There they crucified him. [John 19:16-18]

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. [Isa. 53:4-6]

“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” [Luke 23:43]

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away…who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? …Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief. [Isa. 53:7-8, 10]

“Woman, behold your son!” [John 19:26]

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [Matt. 27:46]

“I thirst.” [John 19:28]

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” [Luke 23:46]

“It is finished.” [John 19:28-30.]

Now…we have died with Christ. [Rom. 6-8]

“Truly this man was the Son of God!” [Mark 15:39]

But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. [John 19:34]

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us. [Eph. 1:7-8]

He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [Phil. 2:8]

It is God who justifies. [Romans. 8:33]

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” [Rom. 4:7-8]

“Certainly this man was innocent!” [Luke 23:47]

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. [2 Cor. 5:21]

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly….But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. [Rom. 5:6, 8-10]

And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled away a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. [Matt. 27:59-60]

And they made his grave…with a rich man in his death. [Isa. 53:9]

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [Col. 3:3]

“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.” [Mark 16:6]

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins….But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. [Eph. 2:1, 4-5]

We believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him….The life he lives he lives to God. [Rom 6:8-10]

“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” [John 20:15]

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. [Rom. 8:1]

“Mary…” [John 20:16]

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? …For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Rom. 8:35, 38-39]

“Rabboni!” [John 20:16]

“I will never believe.” [John 20:25]

Christ died for our sins. [1 Cor. 15:3]

“Peace be with you.” [John 20:26]

Was buried…[1 Cor. 15:4]

“Do not disbelieve, but believe.” [John 20:27}

Was raised…[1 Cor. 15:4]

“My Lord and my God!” [John 20:28]

He appeared…[1 Cor. 15:5]

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” [John 20:29]

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. [Acts 1:9]

Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. [Rom 8:34]

We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. [1 John 2:1]

Christ is…seated at the right hand of God. [Col. 3:1]

…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that…he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [Eph. 2:6-7]

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” [Rom. 8:15]

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Phil. 2:9-11]

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. [Rom. 8:30]

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and ofhis Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” [Rev. 11:15]

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. [Rev. 19:11-13]

When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory. [Col. 3:4]

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb….No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. [Rev. 22:1, 3-5]

If God is for us, who can be against us? …Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? [Rom. 8:31, 33]

When his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. [Isa. 53:10-12]

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who…hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. [Eph. 1:11-14]

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. [Eph. 3:14, 17-19]

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. [1 John 4:9-10]

When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. [1 Cor. 15:28]

To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. [Eph. 3:21]

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Filed under Christmas, God's faithfulness, Joy

The Story. [A Thousand Times, Yes!]

As of today, I have been engaged to the love of my life a month! And in honor of this auspicious occasion, I’ve decided to tell you the story of how it all happened. I’ll try my very best to be succinct. Pithy. Concise. …oh heavens, this is hopeless. It’s long, and our Moms might be the only people to make it the whole way through-but it’s ours, and I want to remember every sweet-like-candy detail.

On Thursday, July 26th, Kellan and I loaded up his SUV with a rather embarrassing amount of luggage, and headed to Bald Head Island to meet his family for a weekend at the beach. I remember as we arrived at the ferry, my sweet boyfriend pulled an abnormally large duffel bag out of the trunk and began to lug it towards the dock. I teased him at the time-never had he ever out-packed me before! Without missing a beat, he retorted that my bag was still heavier-and in the midst of re-thinking my somewhat suspect decision to bring a curling iron to the beach and dreamily staring at his biceps while he carried all of our bags, I forgot all about it.

Mmmm, biceps.

I’m sorry, what?

I’d never been to Bald Head before, and stepping off of the ferry and onto the waiting golf cart felt as though we’d slipped into a whole different world. With effortless elegance, beach houses painted in a myriad of Easter egg colors graced sloping sand dunes- and the island itself seemed to be almost deserted. We spent that evening with his family-and after dinner, Kellan and Bryan left for some “guy” time [read: scouting out proposal sites] while Keri and I decided to test the limits of our non-existent navigational skills and drive the golf cart around for hours.

If Keri and I were gazelles, we would be the first two eaten at the watering hole.

Late that evening, Kellan tightly hugged me goodnight. He’d hugged me goodnight a thousand times before of course-but that evening, something was distinctly different. Sweeter. There was a gentleness to the way that he held me that left me wondering where my legs had gone. After one mind-numbingly perfect kiss, he said goodnight and that was that.

The next morning, I woke up in the “wee small hours” as Natalie Cole would say- just as I always do. Now there are not a lot of things in life that I am sure of, but that morning I was sure of one thing: Kellan Dickens was going to sleep in. We were, after all, on vacation-and if there’s one thing that Kellan is committed to on a vacation, it’s sleeping until at least 10:30. [Hence some rather extensive lectures on early morning wake up calls being a sign of the apocalypse that I’ve had the privilege of enduring over the course of our relationship.]  I briefly contemplated stumbling out of bed and waking him up in the hopes that he would simply find me cute and endearing-…but wisdom prevailed, and I slowly drifted back to sleep. In no hurry at all, I woke up half an hour later, spent some time reading, and 8:30 AM found an uncaffeinated, curly-haired brunette padding out of her room in pajama shorts and a gray sweat shirt.

As I entered the living room, to my utter astonishment I found my sweet boyfriend sitting in khakis and a polo shirt on the couch. [And trust me friends, that is not vacation attire for Kellan Dickens.] Dressed, fed and in his right mind, he simply looked…well, aside from devastatingly handsome [be still my beating heart!], he looked impatient. I hugged him good morning, and then grabbed a bowl of cereal and sat down beside him. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t seem to want to engage me in conversation-I mean, there I sat with my mad professor hair and cereal-milk dribbling down my chin— and did he really want to miss out on that?

Apparently, he did. I attempted to chat with Kellan, Bryan and Keri to no avail-they seemed much too preoccupied with the speed-walking Olympians to chat. After a bit, I wandered off to take a shower and get ready for the day. [Read: get ready for Kellan to take me to coffee. Yes and amen.]

I took my sweet time. I was, after all, on vacation, and thus under the illusion that we were all on island time-and when else can a girl take half hour showers?

Little did I know that Kellan and his family were DYING of anticipation in the living room. There may have been conversation about shutting off the water so I’d HURRY UP ALREADY.

Blissfully unaware, I was swiping on mascara when Kellan finally came and sat down on my bed, and just stared at me. I [finally] took a hint, grabbed my purse and before I knew it we were puttering away on our little golf cart, past the sand dunes and towards my iced caramel latte.

We waited in line with his arms around me-and goodness, how many times over the course of the last two years had we found ourselves canoodling in line at a local coffee shop? The sheer normalcy of it all distracted me from the wild beating of his heart as my sleepy head lay against his chest. I asked if we could wander the beach store adjacent to the coffee shop-and Kellan told me that we needed to go meet his family on the beach for a walk.

News to me.

And so we found ourselves back on the golf cart-me with my feet propped up, happily sipping my latte as Kellan began to talk about how much he’d loved dating me for two years. I was easily and wholeheartedly swept up into his favorite memories from our relationship-after all, I’m a words girl. I just love listening to him remember out loud.

We parked and walked onto the dreamy white sand, and his family was nowhere to be found. The blue water teasing the shoreline captured my wandering attention as I strolled, only half-listening as Kellan began to talk about how beautiful the sand dunes were. “The dunes are really beautiful.” “Check out those dunes.” “The dunes sure are festive.”

That one caught my attention. Festive?

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

As I contemplated the sorry excuse for an education that Duke had apparently provided him, out of the corner of my eye I saw it.

A Christmas tree, conspicuously nestled in the dunes.

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Beaming [because of course, this was it!], I walked over to the tree, and knelt down in the sand to see what he’d done. Strewn amidst roses and every love letter I’ve ever written him [and believe you me-there are many], were what looked like a thousand pictures of us. Standing in front of North Carolina’s spin on the Eiffel Tower on our first date. Stuffing our faces full of lava fudge cupcakes in front of Georgetown Cupcakes. Beaming on a cliff overlooking the ocean in Senegal, riding a lawn mower in the Outer Banks, skiing in Utah, wine tasting at Christmastime, ice skating in July, glaring at each other at a basketball game in our starkly different shades of blue, laughing uncontrollably on a Tuesday…a thousand of the sweetest memories with the man that had slowly, surely, irrevocably captured every piece of my heart over the last two years. I never knew that I could love someone the way that I love Kellan Dickens-I am surprised by it every day.

Sitting beside the  tree, he pulled out one of the first letters that I ever wrote him-the letter that documented the first month of our dating relationship. He began to read it, both of us pausing to laugh or comment throughout. He talked how similar our relationship still was to the one I’d described in that letter so many months ago-but also about the ways that it had grown and become something deeper and richer than either of us could have ever imagined.

It was when he finished reading the letter that my heart leapt into my throat and every ounce of blood in my body drained to my feet.

Trying to will my nervous system into latency, I listened as he explained why he loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. With a grin, he looked at me gently told me that I had a gift sitting under the tree-just as I’d had the day he asked me to be his girlfriend.

Except this time, my gift was a little box with a bow on it.

I didn’t know what to do. After all, a girl isn’t supposed to open up her own ring! I unwrapped the box, and Kellan promptly took it from me, opened it, knelt down on one knee, took a deep breath and asked the question that would change my life forever: “Ashley Elizabeth Peterson, will you be my wife?”

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Never before have the constraints of the English language been so very maddening to me-to say “yes” seemed so small. For the past year, I’d spent the better part of any given day biting my tongue to keep from blurting out the only four words I could seem to remember-I love that man. I had fallen so deeply in love with the man knelt down before me that I could no better picture life without him than I could picture life on the moon. I threw my arms around his neck and kissed him. Wholeheartedly, without reservation or pause, yes. Yes! A thousand times, yes.

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Kellan put his arms around me and prayed for us, and then I saw the ring.

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My heart skipped a beat. My heart skipped a lot of beats. It was exactly what I would have chosen if I’d had every ring in the world to choose from-and he’d never so much as asked me what I wanted. He slipped it on my finger, and kissed me again-and then pulled me to my feet and yelled, “come on OUT!”

Say what?

Before I knew what had happened, his [soon to be my!] sister Keri was tackle hugging me and shrieking, and his [soon to be my!] brother Bryan was whirling me around in the air. They’d been taking pictures the entire time [and, I’m certain, wanted to gouge their eyeballs out with a spoon after the aforementioned kissing], and it was incredibly special to have them there. After snapping a picture, Kellan told me that I had another surprise: my family was waiting for us on the dock. :)

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My future husband. I just love that man. :)

It was perfect. The rest of the day was spent with both families-elatedly telling the story in the living room, all of the women oohing over my ring in the kitchen, eating lunch together at the club on the island, spending time on the beach, calling sweet friends that have walked with us every step of the way and reveling in the fact that we get to spend the rest of our lives together.

The goodness of what is happening right now is overwhelming. And it is good- so good. So here’s to the future–the thrilling, intimidating, romantic, rocky, hilarious, whirlwind, wonderful, adventurous, unknown future with the man I’ll love every single day for the rest of my life. Here’s to it!

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Filed under Joy, The love of my life., Uncategorized

Gone to Carolina.

Tonight, I find myself once again packing my life into duffel bags.

It’s odd that there’s something comforting about doing what has become so familiar to me.

I’m moving to Chapel Hill! I’m a happy kid-someone needs to teach me how to do a cartwheel right this very minute. But it’s true-after months of my parents graciously allowing me to use up all of their hot water and breathe up all of their oxygen, I am, through a series of wildly unexpected and inexplicable events, moving into a house with two girls that I just adore.

In a concerted effort not to end up on TLC’s “Hoarders” [terrif. fying. Every time I watch that show, my eyes start to water and my mouth begins to taste like bad gas station coffee.], I’m throwing away a lot of the things I simply couldn’t bear to part with in July when I get home from Senegal. Strands of dirty wooden beads that I thought would make just phenomenal gifts [if you received one of those alleged gifts, you have my heartfelt apology. At the time I was under the delusion that everyone wanted tackily rainbow-colored Senegalese beads.], half used bottles of shampoo and conditioner [and on that note, I really don’t think I’ll need to buy deodorant for at least another year thanks to my Senegal stash. Cheers to that!], filthy biohazard excuses for books…

The list goes on.

It’s all hitting the trash-joined by other treasures I’ve accumulated and kept over the years for some inexplicable reason. Really, I’m honestly rather concerned about myself. I think I go through life believing that everything that becomes mine, I will one day need and therefore can never get rid of. That, coupled with my marvelous habit of breaking anything with a plug can lead to a lot of ubiquitous stuff! You see, “defective” is a big word for me. Many things in my life are labeled “defective” only to miraculously turn functional again once the directions have been read more thoroughly. If the directions are ever read at all.

The aforementioned elephant graveyard of electronics is stressing me out. Along with North Carolina’s bipolar weather, automatic toilets and Newt Gingrich.

In no particular order.

In honor of my impending move and Duke’s impending spanking, I’ll  leave you with this little gem:

If I ever have children, you’ll see them on youtube doing exactly this.

I’ll buy them ponies if I have to!

Go Heels, go America.

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Filed under First World Problems, Go HEELS!, Home, Joy