Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I Am Lightening Up!!

While my hair is scheduled to get darker, (post about that tomorrow!), this girl is going to lighten up! At least for a little while. It will be an exercise in enjoying life.

Some of my friends tell me that I’m too hard on myself on this blog. That I talk too much about my sins, my insecurities, my struggles. That I often sound sad, solemn, and strictly religious.

I might be giving the wrong impression.

If you know me in real life, I’m a happy girl. I laugh. I enjoy life. I love people and things and experiences. And yes, I am often introspective, a thinker, and serious.

But I am joyful.

Joy is worship.

See, there’s a fine balance in Christian blogging. Above all, I want to glorify God. To talk about Him. To show His glory more than spout off about myself.

BUT… it is a blog.

By nature, blogs are designed to build the feeling of connection between the reader and the writer… to create community. I want people to read my blog and be pointed to Christ… but I firmly believe that the best way to hold the interest of others is to write vulnerably and honestly about myself in relationship to Him. I am not writing a manual, or a Biblical commentary guide, or a theology guide… I am writing personal testimony.

This is my life.

And my friends are right… I am only displaying part of it.

Maybe I am only LIVING part of it.


The Bible says that all things were made by Christ, through Christ, and for Christ.   All things. But maybe I’m only focusing on the “churchy” things. What if I really began to live as if ALL things were by Him, through Him, to Him? What if my every moment and every delight became a gift from… and TO… Him!?

What if my humor were for God…
My lip gloss!
My friendships.
The silly things my children say.

What if I didn’t just declare God through Bible verses and Christian quotes, but also through how hard I laughed with a best friend and how juicy my cheeseburger was!

I am not talking about soft Christianity. This is no health, wealth, and prosperity gospel.  My dad taught me that suffering is one of the greatest gifts God could give us, and I believe him. Yes, sometimes losing everything except for God is the best way to see how satisfying He is.

But what if we haven't lost everything? Isn't it worship to joyfully receive all we still have?

If I am going to believe it is possible to make ALL of life an act of receiving and giving gifts to and from God, then that includes the lighthearted and the trivial.  (Like my mama's green nail polish, which just makes me happy!)


And another thing. If I insist on being honest on this blog about how I mess up... How I neglect God... How I sometimes feel unattractive and unable and guilty...

... then shouldn't I also be honest about the gifts God has given me?

Is it such a scandal to admit that God gives me abilities, assets, things, experiences, strengths? Can I stop playing the humble Christian card long enough to admit that God gifts me?

I feel like I'm at an AA meeting:

"Hi. My name is Rachel, and I am actually a pretty decent writer when I try."
That was hard, but it felt good. :)

And holy lightening did not strike me dead for arrogance!

Perhaps, so long as I understand that anything good about me comes straight from the grace of God, I can stop feigning modesty and say even the good things I think of myself.  Perhaps God even likes when I appreciate His gifts in me!

Ah, progress.

Part of me worries that I'm changing. And then I remember... Change is good!

If I can learn to thank God for my iPhone without clinging to it materialistically... making an idol of it...
...if I can learn to enjoy great home decor without becoming envious and while recognizing that the Eternal is infinitely more beautiful and satisfying...
...if I can thank God for a fatter-than-usual paycheck while simultaneously being willing to give it away because He helps me think that is thrilling...
...wouldn't that be a worshipful life? To enjoy His gifts?



So I'm experimenting on this blog.

With the trivial. The silly. The mundane. The real.



I still love theology and Bible and quotes. They're here to stay. There will be talk here as always on the value of suffering, the dangers of materialism, and the ways I've failed and hope to grow more like Him.

But if the "serious" posts are sandwiched between writings about an incredible movie or concert or snack or green nail polish, don't be surprised.

I'm thanking God for ALL things.

I'm lightening up.

It feels good.


Waiting Wednesdays

For those of you who are waiting...

"The times we find ourselves having to wait on others may be the perfect opportunities to train ourselves to wait on the Lord." - Joni Eareckson Tada, Joni and Friends

Monday, February 27, 2012

I AM the Light

My word, I live a charmed little life.  Do you hear me?  Charmed! (I doubt I need to disclaim now that I am, like my life, full of deficiencies. My imperfections spew forth in life and in writing, surely even in ways to which I am blind.)

But I have to admit, life is good.  Really good.

And that wasn’t always so.  So I can’t help but get excited about how sweet the past many years have been.  I’m not trying to paint an unrealistic or idealistic picture; I simply have to thank God for all He has done.

I can remember living life under a weight of shame.  I can remember simultaneously hungering for God and hiding from Him at the same twisted, conflicted time.  I can remember being so consumed by my own self, my own vanities, my own desires, my own needs, that my mind closed in on itself in darkness.  I can remember how I stung with self-recognition when a pastor declared that a common denominator between all depressed and mentally ill people is an obsession with self and internal problems.

I was not mentally ill, but I knew that self-obsession well.

When Light first began to peak Its head into my darkness, it hurt.  It hurt the same way light always hurts after you’ve been in the dark too long.  My skin was sensitive to the Son.  My eyes were ill adjusted and unable to see clearly.  My sin, my selfishness, my sorrows were all exposed in His Brightness.

But in time, I began to crave more Light. To love the Light. To see my deep need for and joy in glorious, beautiful Light.

And gracious God, He keeps giving it.

The past many years have not been easy.  I’ve worked hard, I’ve become a wife and mother, I’ve grown, we’ve faced trials now and then… Obviously, life is no vacation filled with only bon bons and soft breeze.  But praise God, the past few years have been increasingly Bright… filled with increasing knowledge of the glory of God.

They have been the happiest years of my life.

The happiest.

So you’ll be surprised to know that I’ve been tempted lately to venture back into some self-chosen shadows.  Nothing that would shock you or cause your jaw to drop… just mundane, ugly shadows of increasing self-absorption, insecurities, vanities. Tempted to fold in again onto the darkness of contemplating myself rather than basking in the rays of the Savior who spared me.  Tempted to turn my eyes towards my internal rather than the Eternal.

This is when they say the Christian life is a battle.  I will fight.  I will fight this sick pull towards the darkness.  Towards selfishness.  Towards idolatry.

Better yet, God will fight for me.

The same Shining Redeemer who first illumined my dim and gloomy days – even as I was hiding, shielding my eyes from His Brilliance – He will surely ignite my heart to burn intensely, and cause my life to reflect bits of His dazzling radiance.

I mean it. 

I know He will.

He saved me outside of my merit long ago, when I was depressed and ugly and sinful.  He doesn’t help me because I deserve it.  And so even now, as I feel the alluring pull of the cozy, dank dark… that place where I think no One sees me and no One is more important than I… even now my Love will rescue me.  From myself.  From the shadows.  From whatever robs me of the beauty of Him.

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Husband

God has been gently nudging me about something lately... And I've been half hearing him, forgetting, only partially paying attention. God must think I am not attentive. My husband Brad knows the feeling: me half-listening, busy, forgetting to respond, answering his words with my silence.

My poor earthly husband and my forgotten Heavenly Husband. I neglect them both.

The truth is, I adore them both, God and Brad. I love time with them. I want to make them both happy. I want be better at showing them both how often I think of them.

The Bible talks a lot about wayward wives like me.

Both of my husbands show me such grace and forgiveness and love. What would I do if they didn't?

We have soul mates, and then we have the Lover of Our Souls. We were made to romance them both. To live lives of passion. To give and accept the love of our temporal and eternal spouses.

I'm tired of the flat, lackluster way that I love. We were made for more. I'm ready for romance. On earth and with my Creator. I want to live with sweet passion. How about you?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Waiting Wednesdays

For those of you who are waiting...

"There are some prayers that are followed by a Divine silence because we are not yet ripe for all we have asked; there are others which are so followed because we are ripe for more. We do not always know the full strength of our own capacity; we have to be prepared for receiving greater blessings than we have ever dreamed of."  - George Matheson

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pigs and Babies

Tonight I:

* pet my friends' new pet pig

* held friends' precious newborn son

* (the friends with the new pig and the friends with the new baby are not the same)

* I fell in love. (with the baby; not the pig... Although the pig made me awfully happy and laugh)

* prayed to always be a part of that sweet baby's life

* wondered whether we should get pregnant

* missed Brad and wondered whether I should broach the baby topic with him

* came home and easily put my two big girls to bed, knowing they'll sleep all night long

* decided we don't need a new baby

* thanked God for sleep
* thanked God that we don't have an infant RIGHT now

* called Brad to say goodnight. I stayed far away from the "us" and "baby" conversation

* not now, thank you

* but maybe next week :)

(The picture and the name of this post are not related. Brad is not a pig, although Amelia is my baby. I posted a picture of Brad because I miss him!)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Counting Today

Today consisted of:

* one flat tire

* one lost set of keys

* once scared out of my mind

* one husband on a plane to Colorado (& he just got back in town yesterday!)

* twice late to church

* two girls cuddling in my bed

* eight sweet friends discussing God's beautiful Word

* dozens of precious preschoolers singing "We Worship You" at the top of their lungs

* a million reasons to thank God!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Checking in On My Belly Button

About to blow out birthday candles
Shew. I am one tired mama. (Is there any other kind!?)

My mind has been whirling lately. Brad and I have been talking.

Dreaming.

Planning.

Wondering.

Several things are up in the air in our world right now. Our heads are stuck in “what-if’s” and “maybe soon’s”.


at my cubicle
 And in the meantime, real life keeps buzzing.

Busy at work, busy at home, two little girls laughing and crying and holding hands and telling on each other. Never enough time to spend with all of the many people we love. We are so blessed.

When I get a half-moment to breathe, I spend much of the moment contemplating my own belly button and this whirl-wind life of mine… am I spending it wisely?

Am I who I want to be?

And I don’t just mean in the superficial way. Sure, I care about superficial stuff. Ten times a day I look in the mirror and groan about how not-blonde I’ve become and debate whether this (more) natural, less expensive stuff is worth it. Just this morning I was dreaming up some new wardrobe staples and telling myself that materialism is okay because I’ll never lead any stylish people to Jesus with the way I’ve looked lately. Ha!

I’m silly.
And I get distracted easily.



But more than the superficial, I want to know if the REAL, inner me is who I want to be in Christ. The short answer is no, not yet. If I had to sum up who I want to be, I’d say this: I want to be someone who believes God.

That’s all. That sums up everything. Because if I believe God, it means:
  • I know His promises and Word.
  • Circumstances don’t rattle me because my faith is in Him alone.
  • I trust His love and love radically in return.
  • I live with a boldness and grace and gentleness and joy that could change the world.
  • My priorities are His, my actions are His, my heart is His.
So no, I’m not living as that girl right now. It will take an act of God to get me there.  Still, I know that he who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.  Amen.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

5 Things You Never Knew About Me

(Before I even begin, I have to say WELCOME TO THE WORLD, BABY HUTTON!)
Okay, back to my regularly scheduled post. :)

Some people know the full me. Others only know that I love adoption and blogging. Unless you’re my parent, sibling, or very close friend, at least one of the following facts about me will surprise you:

    A's stylish diaper look
  1. I absolutely LOVE fashion. Which is weird, because I don’t dress great or look so good. I love fashion magazines.  I have look-books that are years old saved to Style.com. I’d DROOL to attend Fashion Week in New York. But… these days, I make a conscious effort to know as little as possible about must-have items because… I don’t want to want them! I am stingy enough with my money as it is and have been asking God to make me more generous… so I can’t handle a clothing addiction right now. I won’t learn to be generous while shopping for a designer bag (preferably tan leather with clean lines, wink wink). So if you know me in real life, you’d be shocked to know how INTO fashion this frumpy mama really is! (Don’t worry… if you have great clothes, I’m not judging that. No one thinks that’s a sin to look good or a virtue to look bad. (In fact, I have SINFULLY let my looks go and am currently working on an upgrade!) I’m just saying that I’m not as generous as I’d like to be, and avoiding my love of fashion is one way that I (try to) fight that... Maybe SOME DAY it will translate to me spending less on me and more on others. So far, I’m not sure that it’s done anything but make me look out of style. Hmm…)
  2. I want to home school my girls. I think. I rarely admit that in public because I’m fully aware of how people perceive homeschooled families. (And no, I never intend to wear calf-length dresses with socks… see #1). Like many of you, I also used to (wrongly) think that homeschooling was awful and bizarre. Maybe even cruel. But I’ve learned so much more about it. I absolutely admire mothers who home school, and I have a deep desire to be a primary influence in my children’s spiritual lives. So when you ask me which private school I intend to send my 4 year old to for kindergarten and I mumble like a weirdo, it’s because I hope to become what you may think is a weirdo. :) We’re not sold on the idea 100% yet –our girls thrive in their current school environment, and there are lots of pros and cons to weigh. But now you know… I think home schooling (in the right way and for the right reasons) is awesome.
  3. I’m ready for another baby. Kind of. More like I am ready-to-be-ready for another baby. I think “readiness” is coming in the next year or two.
  4. I have to have open-heart surgery in the next 1-8 years. It’s a pretty no-big-deal maintenance thing from the surgery I had when I was a baby. We always thought I was forever finished with surgery, but two years ago my cardiologist informed me that doctors now believe they can improve my long term quality of life through valve replacement in young adulthood. I totally freaked over it for about a year and lived in panic mode.  I felt like I’d been told I was ill or living at sub-par levels, which was NOT the case at all. After my dad got sick, I realized how healthy I am, how thankful I should be for preventative measures that are merely “up-grades,” and I realized that my DAD had faced the big deal health-wise… not me! So now I realize that it’s not such a big thing. I hope we can eek out another pregnancy pre-surgery, but if we have to wait until after, it won’t be a big deal. No one likes the dentist, no one likes heart surgery, no one likes scrubbing toilets… some things have to be done.  (Just thankful that I have doctors for my teeth & heart and toilets for my... well... thankful for toilets, haha.)
  5. I have a love-hate relationship with domestic life. I want to be more domestic. I HATE that women are expected to be domestic. I desire to cook well, clean well, plan well, make pretty. But I detest the societal expectation that I should have a healthy and delicious dinner on our seasonally decorated table, look gorgeous, and act like Martha Stewart. I want to join Pinterest but I know that looking at great pictures will make me frustrated that I have to go to work and do other less Pintrest-y things. Am I bipolar? Maybe I should check on that… oh wait… I can’t because I’m four years behind on ironing my Stepford Wives dresses and have instead been living in adoption t-shirts, except, of course, while hanging out in my CUBICLE!! :)
Shew… now that I got #5 off of my chest, I feel better. You readers should be paid for this therapy session.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Waiting Wednesdays

For those of you who are waiting...

"It is on God that we should wait, as a waiter waits--not for but on the customer--alert, watchful, attentive, with no agenda of his own, ready to do whatever is wanted. 'My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.' (Ps. 62:5 KJV) In Him alone lie our security, our confidence, our trust. A spirit of restlessness and resistance can never wait, but one who believes he is loved with an everlasting love, and knows that underneath are the everlasting arms, will find strength and peace."



— Elisabeth Elliot (Quest for Love: True Stories of Passion and Purity)


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Waiting Wednesdays

For those of you who are waiting...

"When you chose to follow the way of purity, did you expect it to be easy? When you decided to wait for the best, did you think that waiting would be fun? Did you think that your faith would not be tested? When you decided to take the narrow path, did no one warn you that difficulties, hardship, and tears would be part of the journey, and that you would often face rejection from others and be forced to walk alone? My daughter, that which you wait for the longest you treasure the most, and through much struggle the prize is won." — Sarah Mally (Before You Meet Prince Charming: A Guide to Radiant Purity)


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

(Musical) Waiting Wednesdays: Hallelujah in the Wait

On Monday night, we had a party at our house.  After the crowds cleared out, I noticed an old song I'd long forgotten about playing from our iPod.  My heart simultaneously soared and broke in two at the painful and beautiful memory.  In September 2010, during our wait for Amelia, I'd spent an hour drive from Birmingham sobbing with this song on repeat as it ministered to my heart.  I was so filled with emotion that I had to pull over to the side of the road and jot my thoughts on an envelope, which I later posted on this blog.  The song and post are below.  For those of you who are waiting, I hope it ministers to you like it did to me.
--------------------------------------------------------------

My heart is singing a lullaby in minor key. It never stops. It is the song of my heart as we wait to adopt Amelia. While it's sound is mournful, it's only lyric is one of praise: "Hallelujah."

We trust God in this wait. We praise Him for it. He is taking His time to compose a symphony. A beautiful song, like a meaningful life story, takes time to build up to its masterful climax.

Amelia's song is not some cheap commercial jingle. It is a part of God's Magnum Opus. In minor key and in major, we praise our great Composer.

We wait for Amelia, but ultimately, we wait for our God. We long for our daughter, but above all, we ache to see the beauty of our Creator through the song that He writes with her life.

We are in love with a daughter we have not touched, and a Father we have not seen. But make no mistake -- they are both real, and they are both the cry of our hearts.

And with outstretched arms
I will sing a melody
And my beating heart
Will pour out a symphony
Hallelujahs in the morning
Hallelujahs in the night
I will wait for You
As long as I have life

If you'd like to hear the song that inspired this post -- the song that has become the voice of my heart in this adoption -- then click below.