Standing Strong in Your Identity in Christ

I posted this on Facebook last week and thought I’d post it here as well…

3 December 2010

Since I’m stuck on the sofa because of my knee, someone just asked me to write up some thoughts for her as she talks with a friend who struggles with self-image.  This was for someone who knows her identity in Christ but just needs some encouragement in it.   This is not the best written piece since I just blurted out quickly what was in my brain.  But I figured I’d post it anyway for what it is worth since we all struggle with facets of this as times. 

Deep down within a girl’s heart she has questions… am I beautiful… am I worth being chosen… am I worthy of delight… and I worth being fought for?  Am I likable?  These are great questions and we don’t have to be ashamed of them at all – in Christ we find answers to all of these – and in a perfect world the Church and marriage would confirm these answers… but, alas, we’re under the curse and life ain’t quite like that.

Situations in life as we are growing up give “answers” to these questions.  Even seemingly small things make gigantic impacts into what we understand the answers to be of these questions… for example, a father’s response to her daughter (even little things like noticing or not noticing a new haircut, commenting on her weight, telling her she is lovely or never telling her that, etc.) and also a father’s response to her mother and other women (comparing the mom with others, showing the mom godly love, praising her character qualities, etc). all play into a girl’s image about herself and about women’s worth in general.

Add culture’s devaluation of women – even as culture says that women should have rights, they are missing the point and ultimately devaluing and objectifying women – making them into sex objects – we see that in the magazine articles at the grocery store lines, movies, clothing styles, ads, etc.

The world takes women’s strengths and needs and twists them to pervert them.  For example, women are to be delighted in by men (God made women to be attractive to men), women are nurturers, women are emotional, etc. But the world takes each quality and perverts it.  Instead a man taking true delight in his wife’s body (like in a godly marriage) women become the sex objects, etc.  Instead of being able to be secure in their femininity,  women are told they have to be like men and become masculine, etc.  There is a major attack on women in our culture today.  (For more on all this I can e-mail you the “book” I wrote which deals more in depth with all this).

Combine this with Satan’s attacks on women – attacking God’s answers to our questions, and attacking women in general (which is a major target for him because the relationship of man and woman is the example of Christ and the Church and is at the core of the Gospel – that is why I would go as far to say that homosexuality, sexual unfaithfulness, etc. are actually forms of blasphemy against the Gospel itself and are such a major spiritual battleground).  All this to say, it is tough being a women and it is tough being strong and always on the alert in the battle of our self image.  About 2/3 of women really struggle with self-image.

Something that is a key for a woman to know – and not just know intellectually but really in her heart – is that the Lord truly delights in her.  That doesn’t mean God loves me because He has to love me because, afterall, Jesus died for me so He better love me.  But an actually “Really likes me”, really delights in me.  The Lord delights in just the way He made me.  I am not a disappointment to Him.  He likes the way I wrinkle my nose.  He likes my odd quirks.  He shaped my toes just the way He wanted them.  He loves it when I am happy.  He likes my laugh.  He delights in showing me how much He loves me throughout the day.  He REALLY delights over me.  He actually delights over me with singing! (Zeph 3:17) He calls me His treasured crown!  (Isaiah 62:3) The God of the universe actually thinks I’m cool!  And The God of the universe’s opinion is really the only one that matters because it is the only truly true truth anyway.   Sometimes I ask the girls what God would say about her and back that up with Scripture.  For example, what does God say specifically about Kathryn (not just generally what God says about people)?  “When God thinks of Kathryn what does He think?  God says ‘Kathryn, I formed you.  You are precious in my sight.  I love you.  You are chosen.  You are mine.’  (All that in just one chapter – Isaiah 43).” Etc. 

But how do we constantly walk in that truth when culture and the Enemy seek  to destroy our joy? 

1.  Preaching the truth to ourselves – constantly reminding ourselves of God’s deep covenant love for us and our acceptance in Him.  When God looks on us He sees Christ’s righteousness in us.  Maybe each day picking a truth of your identity (you can type in something like “Who I am in Christ” on a google search and find  listings of verses about this) and camping on it – how about putting a verse that directly applies to it onto a sticky note on your mirror or a 3×5 card you can carry with you (seriously, even in the bathroom you can pull it out and look at it or think about it while driving somewhere or walking to class– these are tons of otherwise lost minutes in the day that you can think on your verse). 

2. Constantly taking negative thoughts captive (those subtle or not so subtle lies we have bought – every time someone says something negative about us/we allow the Enemy to feed us an untruth/we tell one to ourselves, we are put in the position where we either “buy it” and it takes root in our soul or we reject it… we have all “bought” a lot of lies in all sorts of areas and we have to ruthlessly find them and kill them) and replacing them with towers of truth – words from the Word. 

3. Letting go of past mistakes and looking ahead to the victory we have in Christ – we are already seated in the heavenlies even now – our inheritance is sure (Ephesians 2) and, regardless of our past, God calls us His daughters of purity. 

4.  Purposefully identifying and guarding yourself from things that personally pull you down (and don’t feel bad if a certain thing causes a struggle for you that isn’t a struggle for someone else – we are all different – like magazines don’t really affect me – they actually make me irritated.  But when I don’t do well on an exam it is a struggle for me not to feel stupid – and I have to guard against dwelling on it).  Maybe for you it will be not reading magazines that preach trash can thinking, limiting communication with certain people that discourage you, TV shows or movies that fill you with negative thoughts about your identity and worth, etc. 

5.  Being ruthless.  Be ruthless for the truth.  Although self-pity, negative self-image can seem like a comforting friend sometimes, it is straight from the pit of Hell.  Even silly things can be of help – like in times past when a negative thought has come to me as I am in a store walking around, I actually will step backwards and step again as I think: “That’s not of God.  I’m rejecting that and am going to take that step in thinking the truth.”

6.  Another thing that is important is that one differentiates the difference between God as her Heavenly Father’s view of her from her earthly father (or other male figure’s) views (or perceived views – a lot of times a guy doesn’t even realize how he has said something that hurt her – such as he was just trying to help her when he said her hair looked better before she got it cut.  Not that he doesn’t like it now but he liked it better before.  He was just trying to be honest and didn’t even know it hurt her feelings – guys just are sooo different than girls and just don’t get how girls think.  They are also “fixers” and want to “fix” the problem – they think that’s what a girl wants because that is what they would want and how they would feel most loved – when girls often are just asking for emotional comfort.  My favorite example of this is from my own life – when I was almost arrested for stealing my own car (I had just bought a few minutes before) when I lived in DC and, crying, I called my dad as I freaked out.  I wanted some emotional comfort:  “Oh, you must feel so scared” but all he did was try to fix the problem “Next time when you buy a car from someone and it is still registered in the other person’s name, you need to have the title with you.”  It is one of our favorite stories now, but at the time it was frustrating.  Anyway, we must learn to camp on the reality of who God says we are instead of what we feel other men told us about our worth (or anyone for that matter – so that means what the girl who sat next to you in 6th grade said about you having an ugly nose, or the attitudes of the others in your church as they quietly scoff you since they don’t think your shoes are cool) (shock! even at church our identity can be attacked) just are not what your identity is based on and need to be taken out with the garbage.   

7.  And a major thing -   immersing yourself in Scripture.  Really know God.  Marinate in God’s Word.  As it comes alive to you it will all start clicking together and powerfully impact your whole reality.  One thing I trump a lot and won’t ever tire of saying, is read the Bible as many times as possible while you are single.  That’s when you have the most time and that’s when you need to really come to solid grips with your identity (it will be monumentally beneficially for the rest of your life and all future relationships).  Reading only a few verses out of one’s devotional each morning just doesn’t cut it.  And, it creates opportunity for taking things out of context (I am sorry to disappoint you, Christian bookstores of America, but “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” just doesn’t really apply to winning a relay race).  Busyness is not a good enough excuse.  I know the Enemy is going to do all he can to get His daughters and sons out of the Word.  But fight it.  When I was in DC my mom challenged me to never let a day go by without at least reading a Proverb.  That kept me in the Word.  Even if I’d initially forget and had gone to bed already, I would get up and make myself read it.  Seems like a silly thing but it made me stay committed.  The second year I was in DC I decided to read the Bible through twice a year.   I have done that since – one year read it four times – and that was one of my busiest years.  It is crazy because now when I’m reading a passage that I’ve read a bunch of times already it will just leaps off the page and connects with a totally different book of the Bible and just make so much sense.  And yet I know 40 years from now I’ll still be finding wonderful new things as I read.  I’ve taken a whole paragraph to talk about this – but I guess it is because I am soooo passionate about this.  The more one knows God’s truth the more one knows their God and their identity in Him and how this identity fits into all of history.


Today I got blood drawn AGAIN.  And the nurse said:  “You have good veins.”  And I made a joke about how that’s my one claim to fame.  AGAIN.  I wonder how many times I’ve gotten blood drawn the last 11 years and joked about that.  Too many to count.  This is in such extreme contrast to Nicholas who never goes to the doctor.  I think he was there once the day he was born.  And probably showed up again for a tetanus shot when he was a kid and had gotten into his latest in the woods injury (“But Dad, I didn’t know you didn’t want me to play with machetes!”)  He is so healthy.  I used to be healthy, too.

 But when I was hit by the car things changed.  So a month ago when I was bit by a brown recluse spider I was frustrated, but after awhile the pain went away.  But the past two weeks my knee has been terribly infected and we don’t know if it is related to that or possibly to an infection from my bone grafts of years ago.  I’ve been in a good amount of pain, stuck on the sofa, and frustrated.  I really had wanted to be recovering chairs this week.

I was in a ton of pain  at urgent care the morning after Thanksgiving.   The doctor had just mentioned that it could be more serious than what we were hoping.  A few minutes later I hoped into the bathroom and cried a little.  The pain was terrible.  I was frustrated.  I was feeling sorry for myself.  And I was a little scared.  I looked into the mirror and remembered looking in a different doctor’s office bathroom mirror years ago.  It was when I was in the midst of the doctors and doctors and doctors and doctors who were putting me back together after the car hit me.  I had stared in the mirror and told God the pain was just too much.  I was tired.  I just couldn’t handle it.  I needed a powerful reminder that He hadn’t forgotten about me.  “God, show me Yourself!  Show me You still love me and haven’t forgotten me!”  And later that day God strengthened me in the reality that the One who put every star in the sky, who traced the lines of every fingerprint, the one who attached every butterfly wing, is the God who was there holding my hand and very much had NOT forgotten about me but was very powerfully working the nightshift in my life.   (That had been a key moment in my life – sortof a mountain of remembrance – one of those pillars of remembrance like it talks about in the Old Testament.) The fruit of that has been profound. 

But back to the other day.  I think just the idea of the cause of the pain being related to the injuries of years ago had freaked me out.  I looked in that mirror and I said:  “God, I’m tired.  I’m hurting so bad!  I’m scared!  And I am still very much deep down the girl who looked in the mirror 10 years ago and cried.  I am ultimately not any stronger because You alone are my strength.”  But this is what came to mind next.  “You may still be that girl.  But don’t forget that I’m that same God.  And, actually I have become greater to you since then (not that He has become any bigger, but I have come to know His greatness more deeply).  You know my faithfulness.  You have seen my goodness.  You have seen my sovereignty.” 

I was really encouraged in that.  Sometimes it is just cool to walk into a similar moment as in the past and just be shocked back into the reality of all that God has done in the past and what that means for the present and future.  God is so good!  I don’t know what’s going to happen with my knee.  BUT I know God and I know I am His.

Take a moment to remember one of those mountains of remembrance in your life.  How God’s profound covenant faithfulness upheld you then.  May that give you such confident joy in this same faithful God walking with you today!

PS. George Frederick is growing up so cutely!  It is so funny to us because he is growing straight up!   A funny gangly little 2 pounds of exuberance who has recently discovered the joy of Christmas wrapping paper and ribbons.

George Frederick Ritchie III

Our new puppy.  There actually were no George Fredericks the First or Second, but the Third just seemed to add some extra pizazz to his name :).  He weighs a pound and a half and is the cutest little thing.  We’ve had him for a few weeks now and it has been fun to watch him get used to life.  I’ve actually been impressed at how quickly he has caught on to potty training, etc.  He’s a smart little guy (although Nicholas laughs and says every dog owner thinks their dog is smart) and he has been invited to attend my Bible study next week.  He will probably come with me in my purse  :).   How funny!  So different size-wise than the collies with which I grew up.

Acorns in My Soul

23 September 2010

Today I’m flying to Lansing, Michigan.  My hometown actually.  Although I left when I was  5 (although still spent summers there for years after) so there is some question whether that really makes me a Michigander or not.  Nicholas says that I seem to use my Michigander status when it is convenient.  “Oh, really, I’m from Michigan, too!”  But then to the next person I say, “I lived in Washington, DC, too!”  “I grew up in Kansas, too!”  “I lived in Florida, too!”  “Oh, I lived in Russia!”  You get the idea.  Well, today I’m claiming to be a Michigander.  And, much to the disappointment of the flight attendant, no I’m not related to any Ritchies in Louisiana.  (Much to Nicholas’ happiness since he thinks Louisiana coffee is rather loser-esque).

But being from somewhere is something different than just having lived somewhere.  I loved Florida but I wasn’t a Floridian in my core and I never exactly fit in.  And I didn’t really feel the need to fully fit in either since it wasn’t fully me in my core.  So some places I have only lived.  And some I am from.  I am a Michigander.  And I am a Kansan (I have little red ruby slippers to prove it, as well as ruby dress shoes and casual shoes as any good Kansas should – you never know when you will need to click them).  But anyway. 

So I’m on a plane to Michigan but it is actually heading up to Michigan to get staged for Asia.  Sometimes this flight goes to Dubai as well. And because of that, I’m riding serious first class.  Not just bumped up to a little bit bigger seats like regular first class.  But business elite in my own little pod.  Not bad.   I have decided, Susan Powell., that I do have faith in this airline afterall.  It is amazing how one nice trip deletes the bad memories of the 4 previous extreme frustrations on this airline.

I’m heading to Michigan for a conference in Grand Rapids on economic policy.  I can hardly wait.  I love this organization (Acton) and I love Grand Rapids and every time I see the river there I remember getting too adventurous while feeding ducks and falling in when I was 3 (my first memory of the feeling of embarrassment). 

Nicholas and I have been reading up on the topics of this conference and philosophizing about it for months now.  Super exciting to be heading there.  I’m then heading up to northern Michigan where I’m going to see my very dear relatives.  Northern Michigan was my place.  It where my family immigrated to after touching American Shore at Ellis Island.  And for 64 years my grandparents had a cottage there.  It is where I learned to roll over, fish, make minnow paste, shoot, make people out of rocks and acorns, photography, drive, everything.  Pretty much all family memories happened here.  It was our sanctuary, refuge, escape, happy place.  We had to sell it last year to pay for my grandparents’ medical expenses.  Soon after that my grandma died (when Nicholas and I were in Venice on our honeymoon).  My grandpa is really ill now and is expected to die any day.  It is weird to return to my family’s happy place when things have changed so much.  I told Nicholas yesterday that I’m not sure if I’m ready to return by myself.  It takes a strange amount of courage to return to a land that was my family’s paradise on earth but now many aspects of what made it paradisiacal are gone.  I’m not sure if I’m ready to go there.  It is a lonely going.  But it was already scheduled before Nicholas had to cancel his trip because of work.  So I’m going alone.

But when I venture to the north after Grand Rapids, I will be going to family.  My wonderful Michigander family.  And to see them I can hardly wait!  I am asking God to meet me here in a special way.  I have been feeling lately as if I really am desperately in need of something.  Some serious refueling. 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~* 1 October 2010*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

If you cracked open a core section of your soul you might find an acorn.  Or a palm tree.  Or an igloo.  Or perhaps a wheat field.  In everyone’s soul there is a little pocket called “home” and, inside, there rests the pieces of where one grew up.  Those things that resonate comfort and identity. 

After living half a decade in Florida, not my home, I think the pocket of homeness was starting to get lost in my soul.  I was surrounded by people that were palm tree people.  In their hearts palm trees and ocean and mangoes comforted them.  But that wasn’t in my home pocket.  My home pocket has pine trees and lakes and picking blueberries.  And, although I grew to love the tropical weather, that wasn’t my home home.  And while I absolutely loved the curly tailed lizards of South Florida, squirrels, toads, and minnows were my growing up friends.

This morning I returned home from home.  I mean, I returned back to where we are living from where I grew up.  I spent a week in Michigan, where I lived when little, the place where I spent my summers at my grandparents’ lake cottage, and the place my ancestors came to from Ellis Island.

At one point I told Nicholas that just hearing the accents was comforting.  Those were the original sounds I heard when I was born (not that I remember the day I was born lol, but those are the accents of my childhood) and it just is nice to hear them. 

And seeing birch trees!  And woods!  And acorns!!!!!  (Acorns are definitely some of the best little things ever).  And hearing seagulls!  And Christmas tree farms!  And pumpkin patches!  And lake water!!!! (I could never understand why someone would want to go to all that work to have a boat on sea water when they could have a canoe on a lake).  One evening I walked through some Narnia-like woods.  It just filled my soul with the sweetest feeling. 

And the greatest treasure of all – spending time with my relatives.  Hearing my great aunt and uncle share their stories and seeing their deeply rooted love for each other and the Lord.  And spending time with my extended family.  Just delighting in good fellowship and God’s faithfulness throughout generations.

The last night I was there we all passed around a box of lovely little scrolls of paper my aunt had written on with her beautiful handwriting and rolled with purple ribbon.  We each took one and read the Scripture passage written on it.  On mine was written Psalm 100:5: “For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.”  This week indeed I was reminded of God’s faithfulness to my family over the years.   

I really needed this.  I needed to be reminded of the worth of my heritage.  I feel like it got squashed a bit these past years.  Not that many people purposefully tore apart my heritage.  But somehow in the livingness of living in a different culture, it got squashed. 

There is something about being known.  About being around family that remind you of who you are, where you have come from, and how God has been so grand to you and your family in the past, present, and will be in the future.  And being strengthened and affirmed in your values.  And seeing my covenant God working in the lives of my family from generation to generation.  We all need this every so often. 

God really met me here this past week.  It came at the perfect time.  I’m so grateful for God’s tender care!  And, I’m grateful that my suitcases made it back to me even with all the plane drama on the way home, because hidden inside are some of the little pieces of my Michigan soul that I can hardly wait to show Nicholas!

Picasso and the Baroque

Tonight as we drove I asked Nicholas what it is like for a guy to try to understand a woman. His response “At times saying a woman is logical can be like saying a Picasso is Baroque style. I do not doubt the brilliance of a Picasso but I also don’t see order.”  After a quite comical pause I burst out laughing (at which Nicholas looked at me quizzically… I’m not sure if he originally intended that comment to be funny).  Then we both laughed and laughed.  Some of our funniest conversations are when we chat about the differences of men and women. 
Well later he said he does of course really know I’m logical (which I never doubted since I know women are very logical even if the males out there wonder at times) it is just that men and women can seem a mystery to each other.

Someday soon I need to drag Nicholas with me to NYC and show him some Picassos.  Maybe he will see some logical order in them.  Someday Nicholas plans to bring me back to Palazzo (palace) Barberini in Rome in order to see the grand Baroque style.  Until then I’m content to be a mystery.  And, Nicholas is content to have little golden bees on our bathroom towels in honor of the Barberini crest. 

Even if Nicholas comes to fully understand Picassos I know his Picasso wife will still always be somewhat of a mystery to him.  Just as he’ll always be a mystery to me.  I will never be able to climb into to a guy’s brain even if I have read 1,001 books on male/female differences.  And we like it that way.  Nicholas will never trade me in for a Baroque painting because being a Picasso is what makes me me.  I would never trade him in for a Picasso because being a Baroque type guy is what makes him him.  We balance each other so well because of this. 

We love God’s creative design of males and females.  We love watching how our differences create the perfect “usness.”  How two such opposites, yet both created in God’s image, can make such a powerful union of purposeness and joy.  HAPPINESS!

Hoping Amidst the Fire

 In the dark I watched through the window this morning.  No lights in the hotel room.  The city I’m visiting here in Missouri had turned off the electricity because of the fire.  Nicholas had left early and my lunch appointment wasn’t until noon.  From my window I could see the fire a few blocks away as it engulfed apartment complexes.  For awhile I thought it was calming down.  But then it spread to another building.  Turns out it went to three buildings.  Dozens of homes lost in a matter of minutes.  The smoke continued and continued all morning.  But the devastation will continue for years.


     I never really appreciated having a place to live until this spring when I lived everywhere and nowhere.  Several months of commuting – half the week in S. FL. and half anywhere in Texas as Nicholas worked there.  Plus traveling all over for speaking and variousness.  More than 100 nights on the road.  I remember counting after just the first two months and realizing I’d been in 13 different states.  A home now is a dream come true.  No more juggling mail at several addresses.  No longer that scattered living nowhere feeling.  Even though we are still on the road often, at least I know where I live.  It’s the best of feelings to live somewhere.  It’s the best of feelings to know I am going to wake up and go to sleep in the same place.  And, now even when I do still travel (yes, my suitcase is still always halfway packed because we still do travel a lot), I can press “home” on my Garmin and it sends me to my house where I really for real live and where my  pretty pink “at home toothbrush” waits for me in its little toothbrush dish.  Happiness. 


     So I’m thinking today about the hopeless disorientation of those apartment residents that now don’t know where they live. And, I’m thinking about them as they take in the losses of their possessions.  Although my things were just in boxes during my few crazy travel months, these peoples’ are gone.  Everything gone.  For real gone. Gone gone gone. Photo albums.  The wedding dress which had hung in the closet.  The crafts made by the grandkids.  Books their great uncle owned.  Favorite pillows.  Notes for their dissertation.  All those things that maybe no one else fully can appreciate but, to the owner, they mean security and a sense of identity, markers of where they have come from and where they are headed.  Insurance payments can never take the place of those things.  I can’t imagine the sorrow.  And I’m guessing that one of the greatest dangers they face now is discouragement mixed with subtle sickening hopelessness. 

So I’m praying for them today.  I’m praying for their hope. 

     Hope is just about tops when it comes to the most important thing we have.  OK, I know love is technically the most important thing.  Like any good pastor’s kid I had almost memorized 1 Corinthians 13 by the time I had stopped teething.  But I passionately will attest that, after love, hope rolls in near the top of the list.  Of course not hope in just anything.  But Hope in THE Hopegiver, the giver and holder of hopes. 

     Hope has sorta been a top theme in my mind lately.  Bombing, ambush, and torture come in as a close second (because of criminal law class – it has added a bit of pizzazz to my brain’s contemplations these days).  How powerful hope is in a person’s life.  How as soon as I lose hope, everything goes down.  But as long as I don’t lose sight of the reality of my Hopegiver, I’m strong.  

     It’s a thought that has quite a lot of testing opportunity as Nicholas and I take our initial steps on the journey of adoption and my emotions bounce into sometimes painful areas, stretching into those quiet corners of my heart that are deeply woven with fragile hope.  I’ve been grieving no children for a several years now.  As I struggle through the conglomeration of emotions that can seem foreign to people that don’t know infertility but are very normal process of the road of infertility, some days I’ve got it together.  Afterall, I am firmly confident that God is good and He is a covenant God and adoption is a wonderful thing that God has prepared both Nicholas and my hearts for individually and together.  I rejoice in this, while I yet grieve the idea of biological motherhood that may never be.  Some moments I just need to cry.  Recently I was at a Starbucks when two women joyously entered and sat directly behind me as one told the other all about how she just found out she was pregnant with another child.  “And, imagine, I didn’t even know!  Pregnancy comes so easy.”  No more studying for criminal law for me. I just went out to the car and wept.  Those broken moments I look to my Hopegiver and so deeply realize I can’t sum up hope again in myself.  But I can pour out my soul to God and allow Him to whisper His truth into my heart.  I can actively choose to camp on His truth, marinating in His Word, even when circumstances seem to crush in at me.  Psalm 3 means so much, when the enemy rises against me, mocking the hopes of my soul, I turn to it and read:  “…Many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.  But YOU, Oh Lord, are the lifter of my head… I cried to the Lord, and He answered me…”   

     And I look back and think of past hope struggles.  When doctors after doctor around the country didn’t know if I would walk again after I was hit by a drunk driver.  Going to hospitals again and again for more X-rays and then being told: “We don’t know why your bones aren’t healing.  Being put back in my wheelchair and rolled away with disappointment slamming through my soul.  I remember struggling ardently to keep hoping in God even though for what I was hoping wasn’t coming to pass.  But I learned that I can’t hope in God’s acts – what I think would be good and sensible for God to do, but in who God is. 

     Then I think of another time just a few years ago.  I had just left a nasty dating relationship with a man who had presented himself as godly but then a few months into it informed me that he had only shown one side of himself and now he was going to show me who he really was.  It shocked me so much the dream of ever getting married completely snapped.  I had already walked in some painful broken engagements (one a week before the wedding when the groom had an emotional breakdown because of his own past sorrow, another being engaged the first time to Nicholas).  I escaped out of that relationship.  But it just seemed too painful to ever hope again.  I still was speaking to girls about being Christ’s Cinderellas.  But inside my personal hopes about marriage died.  Not just the hopes one sees, but all the way down to the roots.  Dead.  I walked through a season that fall of feeling deeply barren in heart, body, and soul.  It was right around that time I found out I might never have kids.  And, I was walking through a dark time at the place where I worked as my understanding of the Church was going through a radical shaking to its core.  

     I’ve shared with many this story before.  But I share it again now.  I went to NYC that fall – NYC is my place to heal and think and pray.  I was to attend a conference.  I flew in early and, as I wander around, ended up buying a beautiful tear drop aquamarine necklace.  I felt a little silly and frivolous buying it.  But I bought it anyway, and since I didn’t want to lose it, I immediately put it on and subwayed up to the conference.  That weekend God met me.  Several speakers hit my heart exactly where it was.  I had recently been clinging to Romans 4:18-21, where Abraham hoped against hope in God’s promise… “..In hope he believed against hope…no distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.”  Those were just the verses shared at the conference.  I think of how, ultimately, Abraham did not hope in what He wanted so much (a son), but in who God is.  God’s goodness.  God’s love.  God’s faithfulness.  I allowed myself to just cry as I felt the teardrop necklace around my neck.  The Psalms say that God holds our tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8), and God turns our mourning into joy (Psalm 30:11).  I left that conference renewed in my confidence in who I was in Christ as His Cinderella and the absolute fact that I must continue to hold fast to my hope in the Author of hope, the one who restores hope to those who feel only barren. 

     It was months later that I realized that conference night was the exact night Nicholas wrote my dad and shared his testimony of what God had done in his life the past few years.  It was that letter that brought Nicholas and I back together.  And it was several months after that when Nicholas gave me matching aquamarine earrings when I graduated with my second masters degree.  But even if it hadn’t been in God’s plan for me to marry Nicholas, I know God’s goodness would have been just as real.  

     So here I am, now waiting at Starbucks across the street since my hotel still has no power.  I’m listening to the chatter of the staff and customers as they exclaim over the fiery destruction. I’m still praying for the residents who need comfort from the God of Hope as they face dreams turned into turmoil.  And I’m thinking on the dashed or unfulfilled hopes and dreams in my heart – such as my “being a mom” hope.   Yes, there will be times I still weep.  But even as I weep I will weep triumphantly because my Hopegiver is the God of Triumph.   I will continue to wrestle emotionally, not wrestling to win over God, but to come to the point of resting in Him.  When, at times, the fire of earth’s brokenness threatens to undue me, and I stand in the smoky remains of what were once dreams, I can and must find God’s grace to keep clinging to the One of Hope.  “And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?  My only hope is in YOU.”  Psalm 39:7 

      ”Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud… For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth He is called… For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.  O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.”  Isaiah 54

Gumdrops and Playing in the Mud

I’ve found out two things this week. Both are about Nicholas. Well actually I found out a third – that he likes dried pineapples (horrors… I’m still trying to take in that terrible reality). But anyway, two other things about Nicholas. He has never eaten a raspberry. And he has never eaten a gumdrop. Shock. Complete shock!!! Raspberries just happen to be about the most wonderful food in the universe. And gumdrops and plastic tabletop gumdrop trees are a foundation to a healthy childhood. Even as I write this I’m still trying to take in the sad reality of Nicholas eating neither.

Last night Nicholas came out to the yard and laughed as he saw me playing in the mud with my little shovel. Upon seeing my unworn gardening gloves on the porch, he asked why get dirty when I could wear the gloves. He hadn’t realized I like mud so much. He still doesn’t get the elation one finds in squishy mud on one’s hands while sowing little seeds with so much potential to grow into plant grownups. I asked him what he thought about the garden and he said he didn’t know because, the few times he planted things when he was a kid, nothing came from it (I have also learned that mud digging in general has been discouraging… his mother told me about the day he dug a five foot hole hunting for a queen ant so that he could become an ant farm farmer. Needless to say, it didn’t work out. That seemed to permanently put a damper on digging).

Nicholas never knew how much I like mud. I never knew he hadn’t eaten a gumdrop.

Marriage is the most intimate relationship on earth. And yet even in that awesome intimacy we don’t fully know each other. We don’t fully know each other’s pasts. Presents. Hopes. Dreams. And so, every day, we keep learning about each other. And every day we make a point of telling and showing each other each other.

But there is One who fully knows Nicholas. And there is one who fully knows me. I don’t have to work to show Him myself. He knows. The One who thought of marriage in the first place, the One who thought of me before the foundations of the world, knows every thought I have ever had. The random moments of each day that fill me with extra joy (such as finding a penny on the sidewalk or noticing the time is 6:25 which is my birthdate). The concerns that are so tender that, when I try to say them, tears come instead of words. Every hope I’ve ever dared to hope. Even those hidden hopes that I’m afraid to dare give rise. I never surprise Him with my curious oddities and crazy ideas. He knows me.

And He knows even when I don’t know myself. Even those moments when Nicholas asks me what is wrong and I don’t have the words. Or the times I say one thing but mean another and Nicholas finally pieces together the root but it takes awhile (like when I started to cry the other day because I wanted a dog, but really I was crying because I wanted a baby so much my heart was in shreds). The Lord fully, completely, 110% understands. And He doesn’t just understand, He cares. And He doesn’t just care, He is the All-Powerful One who makes all things right in the end. And He doesn’t just make things right, He makes them better than right. He is the Author of rightness and goodness and sovereignty. He specializes in weaving His plan of wholeness and beauty for His kids.

The other day I found an old treasure box of most valuable possessions – a crumbled old corsage from high school graduation, a note from my grandma in Heaven now, my favorite tiny stuffed dog, etc. Little things collected while growing up. All saved together in my treasure box incase I had to run it downstairs during a tornado (being a Kansan one had to think about such things). Well I found it the other day and could hardly wait to show Nicholas these little treasures because they are windows into my soul, the experiences that shaped me. Nicholas is learning about these things, just as I am learning about the treasures of his life. Maybe he will even see pictures from the events captured in my box. He will learn about them. But the Lord was in them. The Lord was there during those events. He was by my side, surrounding me, within me. He knew every thought and hope and sadness and joy within those experiences. He knows how those impacted my soul. How good it is to have always been known! What joy and security that gives!

Knowing that I am known can and should powerfully impact every facet of my life. It should transform my reality, giving me an awesome confidence and security of belonging to my King and lover of my soul, and an ever increasing joy. It fills me with purposefulness. It helps me when I am tempted to despair over my sin instead of running to the cross with it. It fills me with joy when I consider life’s obstacles and hardships that hover over me now or may someday ahead. It just transforms everything.

Sometimes it’s just good to remember this; that I am fully, truly known. I have always been known. I always will be. No matter what happens in life. No matter if there is someone there to share life experiences or not. God understands me, “gets” me, and delights in me. It is so, so good to be known!

Grandma Traveled, Too.

I wrote this last fall but it disappeared from my page… so I’m re-posting it…

my thoughts as I fly through the clouds

We sat in that little-cluttered-damp breakfast room which was sandwiched into the ground floor of the old, tall, Venice hotel.  We ordered “American coffee please” as we delighted in the concept of a morning taking in the beauty of Venice.  Never mind that it was high tide and cold.  Too expensive and too touristy.  Our feet sported blisters.  The outdoors smelled like fish and we would have to dodge mud puddles.  Never mind any of those things because this was our day to treasure!  And so we would carpe diem in one of the most beautiful cities on earth.

 It was interesting that it was on this day here in Venice that I spoke to Nicholas about Grandma.  Perhaps it was the beauty of the city that reminded me of her.  Perhaps it was the tapestry shop that read “Grosse Pointe of Italy”, reminding me of where she spent her growing up years.  Perhaps it was peering into the shops of silver and Venician glass since, when I think of Grandma, I think of her gorgeous tables full of china and crystal set for her latest dinner party.  Whatever the reason, she was on my mind.  And so we spoke of her.  And then I snuck a little Italian breakfast cookie back upstairs with me (for a later snack) and we finished preparing for our happy day of newfound adventure.  And it was then, as I sat on the bed organizing my shrinking pile of Euros, thinking that I just might buy a little tapestry at that tapestry shop since it reminded me of something Grandma Larson would have chosen, that Nicholas read me the e-mail my dad had sent for us in hope we would be able to access it on our Italy travels.

 Today Grandma traveled, too.Nicholas read.   I stopped shuffling around my sparkly Euros and looked at my new husband sitting there hurting for me as we both took in the news.  Today was Grandma’s day to go to Heaven.  Today was Grandma’s day to see Kristy.  And Aunt Ginnie.  And Grandma and Grandma Pieschke.  And Peter and Paul and Mary and John and the zillion other saints of old.  And JESUS.  Today she had traveled to Heaven.  She had woken up in glory and found it home.  She had taken hold of a hand and found it Christ’s.

So I say there just not quite sure what to think.  It was a weird experience for me, a fast-food generation baby, not able to get in immediate contact with my world and relatives 5,000 miles away.  I was not able to do anything about it except write back and tell my dad “I am so sorry and thank you for telling me and we are going to lose internet in 15 minutes because we have to check out of our hotel.  Can you find a ticket for me please, Dad, I won’t have Internet again for another day or so?”  No ability to call.  No sisters to hug.  Not much ability to process at that moment as I ran around grabbing my toothbrush and tourist books so that we could zip up the suitcase (and also checking under the hotel bed since Grandma taught us to always check under the hotel bed to make sure nothing was left by mistake).   But I processed throughout that day at little moments.  Mostly when I saw beautiful things because Grandma and beauty have always gone hand in hand.  She kept popping into my mind.  We’d be talking about a cathedral and all of a sudden I’d say something about Grandma as my brain scrambled around memories of her life on earth and also Heaven thoughts of her new life.

It was strange as I faced my grief for her because I realized it wasn’t new.  It was the end of a long process.  I have been grieving Grandma for a long time.  I guess a little kernel of it started when I was 11 and went to Maine to visit Uncle Vernon and family.  At a rest area she became confused.  It was just Grandma and me in the bathroom when that happened and I didn’t know what to think.  For awhile after I had sat very quiet next to their miniature schnauzer in our nests of toys and dog bones in the backseat, as we continued the drive toward Maine.   It was the start of her epilepsy but for me it also started to open my eyes to the reality that even my ever strong and amazing grandparents were still human, still became ill, that they wouldn’t be there forever.  And the last few days as I have gone through pictures of Grandma at Christmas, I have seen how every year she became noticeably weaker.  So for a long time I’ve known the reality of her health.  I saw that her body was worn out.  I saw that she couldn’t respond anymore the way that she so desired to (even at the end of her life she would speak of wanting to cook dinner for us and go shopping and help Becky paint her nails).  But for her to be in Heaven for real now is a new feeling that will take awhile to know how to face.

But that’s something I particularly cherish as part of my being a Christian.  I can go to God with the scattered emotions of my heart and He will do His healing work that strengthens and comforts the very fibers of my soul.  I can not be OK with the idea of death.  I can say this stinks.  This hurts.  This seems to go against every grain of what should be right and good.  And I can be OK with that because, as a human made for complete relationship with our holy and good God, death isn’t exactly how it is meant to be.  Death is the result of a world broken with damaged relationship of God with His creation, the consequences this curse of sin.  So I wrestle with that.  I hurt.  I grieve.  But through this wrestling I learn to face this loss, not seeking to wrestle to win over God, but wrestling to come to that place of resting in His comforting hand.  And as I do this I can come face to face with that glorious  fact  that His hand is not only just comforting.  His hand is also victorious.  By His victory we are raised from the curse of death into the reality of life everlasting.  A paper I wrote for my last semester in Greek was on Ephesians 2 ”that awesome reality of how we are raised up with Christ, even while on earth we are heirs of Heaven already seated there.  And when we die we just walk into that eternal reality more fully.  And our bodies, although wracked with the results of the destruction of sin, and in some ways becoming increasingly no longer our friends as they age and weaker, are promised to be returned to us in the final day.  Returned restored.  Greater.  Fuller.  The beauty of our faith is that it isn’t that we are rescued out of our bodies into a state of release from the destruction of the physical, but we are brought into a life of the restoration of the perfection of the physical.  This is something that is of particular delight to me as I think of Grandma.  She isn’t just floating around on a ghostlike cloud playing a ghostlike harp.  She is with Christ, she is very much an individual being, very much herself.  And one day her body will be restored in perfection.  She is serving God in a concrete way.  And the physical things she delighted in on earth will one day be restored in perfection (an interesting note is that the Greek for new earth may not be a complete wipe-out of the old but a restoration of it - but either way, it means a restoration of the perfect physical which God called good.  (And I could write a whole paper or two on this, which I won’t here. but I have before since it is such a passion I suppose).  Grandma is very much alive because of the victory of our Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I found that interesting last week as I visited the dreary catacombs near Rome.  Down 30 feet in the dark.  Dark and damp.  A dampness similar to the dampness of Venice, but the surroundings severely different.  The guide didn’t say, but I wondered about why the Christ-followers found it so vital to bury their dead in the catacombs.  I mean, would we have done that today?  I wondered if they were standing against the views of Plato that had infiltrated much of the thinking of that time.  The idea that the body is evil, physical is evil, a trap from the good spiritual.  And then we contemplated on the Necropolis (the burial place of the dead) that was so different than the words the Christian used… the cemetery (the place of rest and sleep) but all this is getting off on a tangent (but not an unimportant tangent since understanding Grandma’s wholeness, her purposefulness now, her selfness regained and restored in the presence of the Author of beauty, is significant).

But back to the reality of grief.  So I hurt.  Deeply. And I carefully weave the threads of memories together in my mind, hoping to never loss any of them.  Right at this moment it is the fun memories that come to mind: when I was little, if I kept my room clean, she would bring me to McDonalds or pay me a dollar or buy me a new hairbrush.  We would have slumber parties where she would bring us to the store to pick out snacks (Garfield fruit snacks were the item of choice) and then we’d pull out her sofa bed in the living room and watch Nick at Night until very later (probably 8 or 9pm).  And all our Easter egg hunts.  And Christmas celebrations.  The time Grandpa thought Grandma had made Pfeffernuse cookies and so he took a handful of “cookies” into his mouth, only to realize it was Lisa’s dog food.  And sewing doll clothes. 

And there are deep and dear serious memories, too; the way she shown Christ so powerfully.  And my mom doesn’t have a mom on earth anymore and that is really hard.  And I keep thinking of Grandpa (who happens to be one of my greatest heroes) and I can’t even wrap my mine around trying to contemplate his hurt because that is just too overwhelmingly heartbreaking.  I don’t like this.  I don’t like death.  I don’t want to go see my grandma’s casket.  I want her to still be standing at the door on Bluestem Terrace and calling for their dog Lisa to come inside.  I think of these things and I hurt for me and I hurt for my family  because I miss Grandma and this funeral signifies that we don’t get any more memories with her on this earth. 

So there is hurt and I can and must walk through that grief.  But there is also something else.  A profound something else.  That whisper of joy that surrounds a Christian’s death.  A sort of happy shadow, a raincloud that actually pours forth sunbeams of joy.  That crazy amazing reality of Heaven and wholeness and forever-after beauty.

As mentioned earlier, this funeral signifies that, for Grandma, she finally can be herself again because she is whole.  The last few times I saw her I didn’t see much of her Grandma self anymore.  Her personality was almost hidden in the medications and pain.  I grieved that Grandma couldn’t know beauty as she used to.  She couldn’t paint her fingernails.  She couldn’t delight in all those Grandma Larson things she delighted in.  Sometimes I’d catch a glimpse of my grandma.  The things that delighted her heart.  She might be so tired and in so much pain.  But then we’d talk of dresses.  My wedding dress.  Or something beautiful Mom bought her to wear.  And she would light up for those few happy seconds before she sank back into tiredness.  Ah, but now!  Just think about now!  Grandma still loves beauty and now, in the presence of the Author of Beauty, she has known greater beauty than ever filled her greatest dreams.  It is in this I find such joy and peace.

So what does that mean to me here now currently as I’m in the air?  Not enroute to Heaven quite yet, but on a plane from Paris to Houston.  Ever so many things.  It should affect every single ounce of my being, every single ounce of my living.  Realizing that I am a citizen of this Heavenly country should be the catalyst upon which every decision and pursuit flows.  And, realizing the beauty of the physical, the reality that, although this earth is broken in so many ways, that this earth still reflects the glory of Christ, the glory of the Gospel really, the goodness of the physical and an expectation of the perfected physical, should affect my enjoyment of this earth and give and excitement about my future in Heaven.  As I deeply embrace each day here on earth, I can ultimately look toward Heaven and cling tightly to the true hope (hope in the Bible means assurance) of Heaven, of my own present and future resurrection into the heavenlies (Ephesians 2).  It rips my fingers off of the earth a little more every time another treasure in my family heads on up to Heaven.  But I think it also causes me to appreciate life on earth a little more, too.

Several weeks ago I was married.  I crafted my wedding to seek to reflect the eternal marriage of Christ and the Church and the true happily ever after we have in Heaven.  At my wedding my bridesmaids walked down the aisle to the tune of “Finally Home.”  These words are my grandma’s words.  I thought Italy was the dream honeymoon.  Seeing the wealth of history and the profound ways it impacted the development of the Church universal.  But my grandma really had the dream trip this week.  For this one she didn’t need a camera.  No taking yet another picture of smiling in front of a stone edifice a few thousand years old.  Nope.  Not for her.  She came face to face with the Author of history, beauty, and life!  The Author of it all.  And it is this place she will live happily ever after.

Death swallowed by triumphant Life!   Who got the last word, oh, Death?    Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now? It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three – sin, guilt, death – are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God! (1 Corinthians 15:54-56).

“When engulfed by the terror of tempestuous sea, unknown waves before you roll; At the end of doubt and peril is eternity though fear and conflict seize your soul. When surrounded by the blackness of the darkest night, O how lonely death can be.  At the end of this long tunnel is a shining light; for death is swallowed up in victory
But just think of stepping on shore and finding it heaven, Of touching a hand and finding it God’s, Of breathing new air and finding it celestial, Of waking up in glory and finding it home.” (The words to Finally Home)

Once Upon a Time…

I posted this originally last fall but somehow it disappeared.  So here it is again… :)

Once Upon a Time… Our Nicholas & Kathryn Story…
What Kathryn says about Nicholas:
I love Nicholas’ soul… the way he passionately pursues the Lord…. his humility… his joy… his desire to live for the treasures of eternity…
I love how he is so committed to truth… loves to learn and knows so many interesting facts… is a man of contemplation and enjoys discussing theology and worldview… I love just being together… laughing together about how we’ll name our first son Theophilus…. realizing how our hopes and dreams are intertwined with each other…

What Nicholas says about Kathryn…
When I think of Kathryn, I think of someone living a dynamic life, whose joy and purpose is a constant positive influence to those around her. I am continually amazed at her peaceful and tranquil spirit, which is matched only by her passion for right; and I am challenged, in my own life, by her never ceasing desire to please the Lord.

I love how her presence lights up a room and how she brings both a fun sense of humor and intellectual depth to our conversations… in short; I am excited and looking forward to spending a lifetime with my friend.

Once upon a time I used to sit on my bed, contemplating over whether I should be a lawyer, hair stylist, or missionary when I grew up.  When I was 21 I attended a law school’s conference as I still contemplated over my big “what I’m going to be” decision.

Across from me in the conference room sat a young man named Nicholas.  Unbeknownst to me, he watched the speakers intently, but also watched me.  He had heard of me… the girl on crutches from having been hit by a drunk driver a few years before.  When he found out I lived in a house in Manhattan he figured I was a wealthy high-class girl who would never be seriously interested in him (later he found out I was from Manhattan, Kansas – not NYC – and he, being a Missourian, had vowed never to marry a Kansan).  I got to know his sister that week and, on the way home, she told her parents on her cell phone that Nicholas found his girl.

Well Nicholas went off to the mortgage industry and I went to Washington. A few years passed as he contemplated asking me out.  It was one day, while at seminary in Ft. Lauderdale (when I was making my weekly DC to FL commutes) that I received his e-mail asking whether I would be interested in starting to date.  I showed my friend, Susan.  I was quite shocked, particularly because I knew I was getting engaged the next week to a Washingtonian.  I think it mainly shocked me because my engagement to this other man was not smooth and there were increasingly concerns over this and, years before, my mom had mentioned how she had felt the man I was going to marry was at that conference.  Was this just a crazy coincidence or was this God doing something?  I wrote back to Nicholas and he was sad but realized the best thing was to entrust it in God’s hands.  I was engaged a week later but, a week before that wedding took place, my fiancé cancelled it when he realized there were some significant areas of his life that were not solid.

Several months later Nicholas got in contact with me.  I ended up getting stuck in the Midwest after speaking at a conference during Hurricane Wilma before the Ft. Lauderdale airport opened again. I spent a few weeks chatting over things with him and our families better getting to know each other.  We were engaged several months later.  However, soon after, he called it off, feeling that he wanted a girl who would be content to pursue the world’s glitter instead of the Lord.  He wanted a girl who would look good standing next to him when he ran for office and wanted me to really delete so much of my heart and soul’s joy and life calling.  I told him I couldn’t do that and he told me to mail him the ring back.  I didn’t think I’d ever talk to Nicholas again but, every so often, I’d look online to see if he’d married someone else.  This was such a painful time for me… but the Lord gloriously showed me His goodness… wow… that’s a story in itself.

The years passed.  I graduated from seminary, was offered a job at Coral Ridge in the Women’s Ministries department, eventually headed Women’s Ministries there, graduated with another degree, traveled all over the place, etc. etc… so much fruit and growth these past few years.

Last fall – September 26 – I was at a conference in NYC (the city where I go to refresh) and God really encouraged me there.  The speaker talked about barrenness… I was feeling barren in many ways… who would ever actually want me as a wife?  I felt very non-choosable.  The heart song I had spoken to hundreds of girls – how they are precious, chosen, delighted in, beautiful, etc. etc. to the Lord as His Cinderellas – needed a strong refreshment personally from the Lord.  I had also gone through a terribly painful year of ministry and was just worn-out.  And, the doctors had just given some discouraging news about my medical issues.  That weekend was a weekend of deep healing.

That same night Nicholas wrote my dad an beautiful letter of apology, healing, and restoration. My dad and Nicholas started writing and calling.  My parents could see an incredible transformation in Nicholas’ life – he had become a passionate pursuer of God, full of such humility, vision, and grace.  When I found out about this I wrote out a list of 5 pages.  He had to be everything on these 5 pages or forget it.  I didn’t want to date guys anymore who were compromises.  They had to be everything on the list or I would not get married.  And I seriously meant this- that through God’s grace, I would be OK if that meant not getting married.  I only was willing to date and marry someone who would encourage me to b be stronger in the Lord, someone with whom I could serve God better than remaining single, someone whose life I could orbit around as I sought to be a complement to him.  Well he was everything on those 5 pages. Everything!

Although my dad thought I would accept Nicholas’ apology, he thought the hardest thing for him in pursuing me again would be for me to trust him. I’d been hurt so many times.  But that day when he first wrote me, until today, that has never been an issue.  I know that is the Lord’s grace to both of us.  I have seen Nicholas’ heart and it is led by God.

Earlier this year I went to Thailand and thought and prayed about the relationship a lot while there (as Nicholas freaked out about my safety).  I returned secure and ready to run with it.
“Our song” – and the song playing when we had been engaged in 2005 – had been What a Wonderful World. I sent him a link to that when I responded to his first e-mail to me this time. He wasn’t sure what that meant… was I open to his apology?  Would I forgive him?   Or maybe was I even interested in developing a friendship again?  Would I maybe even be interested in marriage?  Whatever I meant, he thought that was a good sign.  We were so excited to talk that first day he called.  We hit it off – this time deeper than ever it had been.  This time there weren’t masks but instead was true vulnerability – I could see his heart and we came to delight in each others’ souls and realize how amazingly God had woven our journeys these past years to tie in with each other.  Our life hopes and dreams are the same and we have been increasingly delighted in what God has done.

I love Nicholas and am in awe that he would ever have chosen me.  We have so much fun together!  We just truly delight in each other.  He leads me spiritually as we discuss the day’s events, every night he reads the Bible to me on the phone, and we never run out of things about which to talk.  We agree on almost everything in life except liking black licorice.  We love to have long-distance “dates” together… both of us watching the exact movie at the exact same time as we stay on speaker phone.  Together we make each other better, encouraging each other and strengthening each other.  I believe we have an exceptionally deep and solid relationship that I know comes from God’s overflowing goodness.  We talk about our “usness” – how we have this amazing dynamic together.  We know that comes from God being at the core and from being honest and forgiving toward each other.

So that’s our story (from my eyes) in a nutshell.  I can hardly wait to be his girl officially.  We hope you’ll be able to join us on October 3 when we celebrate God’s’ faithfulness.
Oh, and the neat thing is that Nicholas did start law school… and I am scheduled to begin this fall. And in the meantime I learned how I could be a missionary throughout life.  And, I have become a hairstylist as well (you should see how perfectly I can make his hair stick straight up after he goes swimming… although his sister can almost make a mini-mohawk so I need a little more practice).  And, now, what I most want to do “when I grow-up” is be his wife and serve the Lord together no matter what each day brings.
Truly God has turned our tears into a song of His lovingkindness… turning mourning into joy (Psalm 30:11).  God promises to do that.  When He takes away or allows something into our lives that seems so painful, we can cling to His promise that He will restore joy as we rest in His faithfulness.

God is in the fairy tale business indeed!  I look forward with expectation of the fairy tale of being His eternal bride. Truly I am His Cinderella.  But I am also continually amazed as He brings facets of heaven to earth, weaving reflections of that eternal glory and joy into our earthly lives.


“But if the world of the fairy tale and our glimpses of it here and there are only a dream, they are one of the most haunting and powerful dreams that the world has ever dreamed…” - Frederick Buechner (from “Telling the Truth, The Gospel a Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale”)

“[The fairy tale]…does not deny the existence of… sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of the deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat…, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.” - J.R.R. Tolkien

Going to the Mountains…

I’m going away… to the mountains… just for a bit… but I’m so happy for this little bit!

It wasn’t really planned this way. I was going to Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. But it turned out it was out of network for insurance so, last minutely, I cancelled that and was able to change to a different Mayo. It takes 14,000 years to get into the Mayo in Minnesota but the Mayo in Phoenix would take me (which happens to be in network. Craziness that I have to go thousands of miles away to save money… but the last few days I’ve begun to realize what a great joy it will be to return to Arizona).

I started the trek to Arizona when I worked for a Congressman from this district. I continued to come even after my Washington days… I’d always have a blast in Phoenix but also looked forward to my drive in the mountains of Arizona to beautiful Lake Havasu City nestled away in the amazing landscape.

While packing this week I was looking for my Arizona driving tunes music that my friend Lauren made me several years ago. This was my special Arizona CD and I can’t find it anywhere :(. So this time the mountain drive will be a little different. But not just because of the CD missing… but also because Nicholas will be beside me… and also because my driving thoughts are different.

It is in these mountains I healed… I sensed God… I would drive as the brokenness of the world loomed heavy… Washingtonianess… making sense of the secular world… Then there were the thoughts I healed through regarding a broken engagement that took place a week before the wedding was scheduled (I’m so grateful now! But at the time I was left reeling emotionally and spiritually). As life happenings would weigh in my thoughts, eventually God would cause my heart to sing again as those joyous tunes played on my rental car CD player… as I’d watch the vibrant sunset begin each time like clockwork right before Lake Havasu finally appeared past the bend.

Once when I was driving in those mountains I was healing from church pain. Several years ago it had taken place… by the time I left DC I felt deeply wounded by a church I trusted. The unhealthiness of some subtle facets of theology… the misunderstanding of elders… weird accusations… some things I’ll probably never really understand. I left with the desire to hide and not know the reality of church pain again. I was going to sit on the back row of my next church and not be too heavily involved in church inworkings.

But I didn’t keep my little selfish rule. I worked in it. That’s been my world the past 4 and a half years. I heard the personal stories, struggles, sins, triumphs, joys, heartbreaks. And the politics. And I truly believe that the politics of churches are more painful than anything Washingtonian. For it is that churches are dealing with the spiritual realm in a way in which Satan just loves to work. And I’ve seen a lot of that work. It has been a few years of deep growth, deep learning, deep rethinking and strengthening my understanding of the theology of the Church universal.

In my job I see a lot of pain just because people are involved. I face it and work with young women together through it. I can counsel a girl on a broken engagement. I can cry with a girl whose mother abandoned her. I can talk to someone who has been abused. I can sit with someone who gains confidence in sharing her doubts about God. Or someone who has been afaird to take off her mask of spiritualness and be vulnerable and real. Or someone who is facing longterm pain. Or someone who is re-thinking core foundations because of having seen death in the face. But the pain of the church is a pain of a different sort. In the other pain, one runs to the church for comfort. But here it is the church that betrays. That is the worst. I don’t really think we normally are prepared for when this happens… we don’t easily gain the skills, the place in our brain, the coat racks emotionally or mentally to hang that kind of pain on. But it happens again and again and again. The church universal is broken even as it is already seated on the heavenlies.

Sometimes it is particularly hard. And these days, with many young people in the midst of this, I particularly hurt. They are young! They don’t have the emotional backbone or spiritual maturity to handle the pain they are seeing. The weight is too heavy and their hearts are at special risk toward bitterness. And this breaks my heart.

I was thinking about it last night. And the thought came to mind, that, in all the church’s mess, Jesus died for this? For this broken mess of the church on earth? In all its sins and terrible fights within itself? Yes Jesus died for this church which He calls His beloved. For this. For me as one of those people within it. That’s an amazing love. Now how does that affect how I view the pain? How does that affect the words of Christ’s healing that I can pour out into the hearts and souls of others as I own them myself? That’s what I’m continually figuring out. That’s been a pain part of my journey these four and a half years. And I think it is a massive key to living well, to loving well, to serving well, to understanding reality well. And perhaps that’s why, this time, I’m going to the mountains…