Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

Since it is Valentine's Day, I thought I would start out with one of my most favorite stories of Andrew and myself. As it turns out this story actually takes place before we even dated. I think that is what makes it so sweet to me.

Well, Andrew had invited me to go to the spaghetti and a movie Valentine's Day event at his church. I was a little apprehensive because I knew that he liked me and I just wasn't in a place in my life where I was ready to accept the pure love that he had for me, but he was quickly becoming my best friend in the whole world. So I decided to go but I brought a couple of friends with. For reasons that I cannot remember, possibly cheerleading, we got there late. We missed the dinner if I am remembering correctly, but were just in time for the movie and to visit just before. (They were watching Lady and the Tramp.)

But after visiting for a little while they were going to get the movie started but just before they did Andrew decided to give me his Valentine for me. As he handed it to me I could feel my face turning as red as the ribbon that was on it... It was a small, rectangular velvet box... Yes. One that you would normally receive jewelery in... I was more than mortified... "NOT JEWELERY" was the only thing that I could think to myself. So I opened it slowly, afraid of what I would find inside and as I did, I saw the best Valentine's Day present that any one would ever be able to give me...besides what we got last year.

If you are an "Office" watcher, remember back to before Jim and Pam were dating and Jim actually got Pam's name for the Secret Santa event. Remember what he got for her? He had gotten her a tea-pot which she had been wanting for so long, and he filled it with little things that had a lot of meaning behind them, a yearbook photo, and other inside jokes. Yea, Andrew is my Jim.

I opened the jewelry box and inside I was delighted to find it full of red Skittles. Andrew had gone through a bag of Skittles and picked out the color that we both liked the most and always jokingly fought over. He even went so far as to pull the rest of the skittles out of his pocket and give them to me. It struck me just what an honest and special gift it really was. That he would be so creative and go through the trouble to pick out all of the red ones means so much to me today. What a gift. Simple, thoughtful and so full of love.

. . .

Along that same line, I was reading my daily devotion last night and it just really touched me and spoke to numerous struggles that I am facing, and just goes along with Valentine's Day beautifully. It comes right out of "DAILY SEEDS from women who walk in faith" and this day is written by Dee Brestin:
"The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friends who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete." John 3:29

"Sometimes I think single women are better equipped to understand the portrait of Jesus as our Bridegroom. I certainly learned a great deal from my coauthor, Kathy Triccoli, when we wrote a trilogy on the Bridegroom. I remember the first night we went out to dinner together.
'Dee, let's have a romantic evening.'
'I don't understand.'
'Oh Dee-your definition of romance is so limited! Romance is so much bigger than a guy and a girl. Romance has to do with making things lovely because of love. Candles, food served elegantly, and meaningful conversation.'
Kathy has helped me to see what a romantic God we serve. He set the stars in place, He writes to us in poetry, and He gives us love stories in the Old Testament - parables to help us understand His love for us. In each of them, there is a bride who feels unworthy - but then there is a Bridegroom who loves her just the way she is - but too much, as Max Lucado puts it, 'to let her stay that way.'
Ruth, the Shulamite maiden, and Gomer all felt unworthy. Yet each one was deeply loved and taken higher by her Bridegroom. Boaz 'covered' Ruth with his garment, as Jesus covers us with His righteousness. Hosea bought Gomer when she was naked on the auction block, as Jesus bought us. Though the Shulamite pleaded for Solomon not to look at her, he told her she was 'a lily among thorns,' and pleaded with her, 'Come away, my love.'
will you believe that you are loved by your heavenly Bridegroom? Will you trust that His righteousness covers you? Will you abandon yourself to Him and allow Him to take you higher?"

As you face Valentine's today, whether your Love is with you or miles away, remember that Jesus is the perfect love and bask in that more today than you ever have because He is the Husband that is the creator of romance and he has abundant and even unending amounts of it to share with you.

Enjoy Valentine's Day today my friend. Make it a day to remember whether or not your lovemeets your expectations because Jesus always will.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


As I was driving home from my parent's place last night, the nagging thoughts that I have had the past few days returned to haunt me some more. On Friday I skipped Bible study with really no good reason at all, I could come up with hundreds of reasons but the reason I was leaning on the most is probably the worst reason of all. . .

Andrew and I started going to Faith Community church in New Richmond, partly to branch ourselves from our parents, and partly because we had a new baby coming and didn't want to drive a half hour every Sunday. It really is a new experience for me, the church is much bigger than the church I grew up in and frankly, it's scary for me. For Andrew it is pretty normal, the church he grew up in might be slightly smaller than this one, but it's much bigger than where I came from. Since he has been gone I have forced myself to go and my friend Lindsey has made it much easier and more enjoyable as she has gone with me most Sundays.

Trying to connect to people has never been hard for me except for the past few years which is where my revelation is coming in. I have been deeply wounded from events in the past and the wounds are something that have haunted me and are something that no matter how hard I try I just can't seem to cast over to Jesus. I think partly it is an unwillingness to try hard enough, and the other part is a great, deep, haunting fear than I cannot describe to you. With that, I am working, and feeling to fail at connecting with ladies from this church.

I feel that I have so many things working against me to connect to people. Things like my fear, and a feeling of "outcastedness". I feel that I am in such an awkward spot in my life, on the fence of adulthood and I just can't seem to catch my balance no matter how hard I try. Depending on the person, I feel like I can cross the fence into adulthood and be just fine, but when it comes to others, typically those that are closest to me in life but are just slightly ahead, I feel that I am just standing at the bottom of the fence, even the bottom of a moat at the bottom of the fence and I just can't bring myself to climbing it or reaching up to get over it.

Therein lies my problem and the reason I skipped Bible study. I had started going to a Bible study at Faith in NR and as it turned out it ended up being a lot of young moms all with little guys. Still older than me and mine, but closer to my age (the fence bottom). It really was very enjoyable, I liked meeting together with them and chatting, and two weeks ago some of us really opened up and it was nice to hear about another family that was where Andrew and I were financially.

But then on February 4th when we met, I feel like I buried myself under the fence and am now having to come face to face with my hurts and the running that I so often tend to do and never realize. I bring Bennett with me wherever we go and he is typically an extraordinarily good baby. It always seems though, at the times when I want him to be the best, he is just the opposite. (Not that he is a bad baby, he will just be a little fussy and henceforth be a little more hands-on.) As it had been at Bible study. And on this particular Friday he was being a bit more hands-on than he usually is. I felt that I was being very distracting and I was very distracted myself and then one of the girls called me out. I had just sat down and put him in his car seat and grabbed my cappuccino to take a drink of it and she said, "and what about you over there drinking your coffee?"

I was so embarrassed. I hadn't been following along because I had been concentrating so hard on working to keep Bennett quiet and I hadn't gotten a chance yet to even look at my book or my notes to see where we were at...thankfully things were distracted away from me right away and I wasn't on the spot for more than long enough for her to ask me. But the fact that someone was watching me that closely really scared me. Feelings of shortcoming as a mom were passed my way and I felt just lousy. Like I was totally failing she was just waiting to catch me doing something or not doing something to be able to call me out on...

So that was my reason for skipping even though I knew that if I skipped once I would face myself wanting to just quit. And with wanting to quit I give myself a million more reasons that it would be for the best: that I am distracting with Bennett (and then I give myself excuses for that like not wanting to put him in the nursery because I don't know any one that is working in there, and that we don't have the money to pay for the care and I would be losing my "security blanket"), that I am just not enjoying the study, that I am not getting anything out of it, that I am so much younger than all the other ladies in it...the list goes on and rolls around like that in my head and the worst part is for every excuse that I give myself I can give myself an answer from Christ.

So as the thoughts came back to haunt me and to fight with me last night I realized that I was just running away. Jesus pulled some deep, dark thought from the depths of my soul and fear and showed me what it is that I really am running from. The girl that called me out. And not her precisely, but what she represents to me. That deep fear that I mentioned earlier stems from the viciousness and brutality of other girls, and never having to face them or deal with the hurt that I just pushed aside and hid from myself and is now eroding my chance of being filled up and free in Christ. I am in bondage and I don't know how to escape it.

I feel that because of the hurt and fear that I have held onto and hidden from myself it has done a lot of damage to my relationship with Andrew and from it springs even more problems that it created. I am now facing what to do. I know that I should go back to Bible study as a way of facing things, but I am now feeling embarrassed for skipping without a valid excuse. I am not ready to share this with the girls at church. On cyber-space is one thing, but when I sit down and have to confess it to a bunch of people that I hardly know and don't have trust for yet and do it face to face, that is a whole different story...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

JEHOVAH-JIREH: the Lord will provide

I thought that I would explain in a little more detail the ways that God is moving in the relationship that He ordained between Andrew and myself. He has really moved in BIG ways since we have been married and really even from the first day we met. (I say met because he claims he saw me WAY before we met on a church trip and told the friend he was with "I will never date someone like that..." It is things like this that I enjoy tasting a little bit of God's humor. HA!)

Anyways, I guess I will start from the beginning of our marriage and help you watch God's hand through our relationship as I have done.

Andrew lost his job a few weeks before we got married. He had been working a very decent, full time job and was on the brink of getting benefits and he received lots of overtime and would have been a fantastic, steady job for us to start with as I was working full time in Amery, no benefits but the pay was good. But, God, in His great wisdom and for reasons only He will understand took that cushy life we could have had and changed it to a teaching life where we had to fully rely on Him in order to make our payments. Yes, the thought did cross my mind a few times and I wondered "should I really marry him now?" But we went through with it and it just revealed God's glory in amazing ways.

We were married in September and our relationship was VERY taxed due to the failing economy and shortage of jobs in our area. To add to our hardship, Andrew's car broke down and we didn't have the money to pay to fix it so we decided to sell it...We were a single car couple now. Andrew ended up having to WALK all over New Richmond to find work. He even walked almost all the way to Star Prairie which is quite a few miles, and one day he even walked to Amery, 25 miles. As I type this, I think of how miserably I failed him in not giving him enough credit and respect for what he went though for me and my heart just sinks. What a wonderful man I married.

We had our struggles with things at home as well as him not finding a job. I felt that he should be doing more at home since I had the full-time job and he felt he was doing enough and on it went. Winter came and Andrew was dedicated enough to continue to walk around town looking for work. As it came to be, the landlord of the building that I worked in could use a hand with maintenance around the place, and Andrew was the man for the job. Between what I was bringing in and what Andrew brought in we had just enough for our small amount of bills and just enough groceries. I see now what a mistake we made when we chose not to tithe. What a small faith I have. Father forgive me.

It came to Christmas and God blessed us with enough money to buy a tree and we had ornaments from my bedroom at home which actually happened to be enough to fill a good-sized tree. God really came through for us at Christmas. I remember just being broken and asking Andrew what we were going to do to pay the bills for next month and Andrew had just brought in the mail (probably with bills in which was why I was at that point...). He mentioned we got something from my grandparents and I opened it and it was a check made out for an amount that would help us to pay our monthly bills and catch up on a few that we were behind on. The gratefulness that I have to my grandparents, still, I am just so thankful and blessed. I cannot tell you how much it mean to me that they would think of us and send money for Christmas...I need to write another card to them...

Well, the blessing continued because my boss gave me a dollar raise in January. As many struggles as I had with her, she really was good about being understanding about when I needed my check. She was willing to write them out early for me. What a blessing. Right around that time, I emailed the owner of the grocery store in Amery, I babysat for them when their boys were little, and told him about the tough spot that Andrew and I were in. He said he would keep his eyes open for us and a week later Andrew had a part-time job paying just enough for us to catch up on all of our bills and make our monthly payments along with my paychecks. January always begins to be very expensive for us with our utility bill as we have all electric base-board heat and a big old drafty house.

I forgot to mention previously that Andrew had sworn into the Air Force Reserve January 5th and we were counting on him leaving for basic training in June of 2010.

The good news just kept coming because on Valentine's Day 2010 we learned that we were pregnant...I was so excited and at the same time I just felt shame for bringing a baby into the world where we just weren't even sure if we would be able to buy groceries. But God's grace and mercy abounds, and I attribute it not to the faith that Andrew and I had (because that has been so small and we have just really failed Him in our walks) but to the prayer and faith that my mom has.

So things started to loosen up a little bit in our wallets as Andrew started working more and more hours and I continued to work regular hours. That isn't to say that we didn't have our amount of hardships. We only had one vehicle at this point, remember, so we had to work out ride-share. Typically he would ride with me and stay at work and then walk to Dick's which was nice. During our dating days, one of our favorite things to do was to just drive around and talk. That is probably one of the major blessings, and totally God's hand in keeping our marriage strong by giving us that time together.

The car situation is a whole different story, another revelation of God's grace and provision. JEHOVAH-JIREH. How much meaning that name has to me now. I will tell about the cars another time.

The summer came and went, we were still pretty tight, but God pulled us right along. We still weren't tithing - amazing how small our faith can still be even after everything that God does. Around August I believe we received our long-awaited tax refund and the first time home-owner's credit. A huge blessing. We worked at saving some and being a little bit more free. It's amazing how when you get a little taste of financial freedom, or any freedom I imagine, you just take it and RUN, no matter what you have that leads us to where we are today...

Andrew was finally sent to Basic in January and it couldn't have come at a better time. We had finally squandered all of our savings by December and were living on just what Andrew had left to bring in and he took off work the week before he left.

I was left here at home in the freezing Wisconsin winter to manage the finances which I had been doing from the beginning but I had no control over what we bring in since I quit when our son came. That's right, God was gracious enough to allow me to be a stay at home mom since October. What a good God we serve. It has always been my dream I guess to be able to be a stay at home mom.

Well, at the beginning of January I faced possibly having to go back to work because as Andrew's check showed, it just wasn't going to be enough for us to even live that we have diapers and wipes to pay for. But God just doesn't stop. Andrew's next check was PLENTY for me to even put a little away. So we will be able to fly down and see him for his graduation and I can still pay our bills.

That presented another question though, what was he going to do when he comes home? He is hoping to find a job working for an airline loading planes which is what his military job will be. I would be tickled if he would be able to do that, but I was starting to feel called to be a full-time military family. I prayed and had others praying about that, and that God would place it on Andrew's heart to do that as well. I didn't want it to be just something I wanted for us, but for Andrew to feel that it would be God's will for us and for his career. Well, the last time I talked to him he mentioned that he was looking in to working full-time reserve. We would be able to stay at our home and he would have a full-time job in the reserve working on the base in Minneapolis. It would be such an answer to prayer because it would be a steady-fail safe job for him and I really believe it would be a good one for us.

So that is the story of God's provision in our lives. Shortened some, and there are so many different places that I can expand on but since I didn't, I have to believe that this message is going to bless someone else as God guided my fingers on the key-board. May this bless you and encourage you as you go on with your day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Eighteen Days Left - First Calendar Update!

Just eighteen days left until Andrew's graduation!
I can't believe we only have 18 days left!


Well I received my first letter from the love of my life last Saturday. It was very encouraging to see the way that God is working in his life and answering prayers in a huge way. What a mighty God we serve.

As we are apart, I have busied myself with trying to organize and re-organize our home to a way that makes it feel warm, homey and welcoming to myself in hopes that others will fee that way as well.

Mister Bennett is growing so quickly. He is such a gem. I don't think I could have ever asked for a better baby. He enjoys snuggling with me when he is tired and he often falls asleep that way. He is such a character playing on the floor. My home is often filled with the noises of our little man experimenting with his little voice and laugh. What a joy. Most recently he has been working on his little squeal which at this point is still a joy to hear just because he does it when he is the most excited. Like when we are playing airplane on the floor. Such a blessing.

As Andrew has been learning and being taught things about himself while going through basic training, God has been doing the same in me. One of the toughest things for me has been not having Andrew as a companion when I do things. I have learned that over the years I have developed "security blankets." Meaning, people or things that I keep very close to me as a way to sort of hide myself from the outside world. I use them to hide behind so as not to have to interact with people, and risk putting myself out there for the world to "take stabs at". A rather dangerous thing as a believer. I am realizing that I need to re-learn how to make Jesus my husband and "security blanket", how to run to Him, reside in Him and cast all of my cares on Him no matter the cost.

I have learned that I not only do this spiritually, but physically as well. After having Bennett, I had a lot more baby weight left over than I was expecting and resorted to "hermitizing" myself by making excuses to stay in and then I didn't have to try to do my make-up or hair or try to feel pretty. Or even get dressed which has been a very hard thing for me to have to deal with. I didn't fit in any of my clothes for the longest time so I would just wear Andrew's sweats around and wouldn't go anywhere so I could just vedge in his sweats. A security blanket. But I have begun to try to force myself to do things above and beyond what I "feel like" doing. Even if it is just my hair after a shower.

What a blessing it is to have Andrew going through military basic training. The sacrifice of time has been tough but it is all for the best. I keep imagining when he comes home, it is going to be like a re-starting of our marriage which I believe both of us have needed. I am looking forward to re-starting our marriage and making Christ stay the center of it, and ultimately learning to serve one another as Christ would have us do. What a blessing...I know not everyone has another chance to start a marriage over with the same man after not actually separating in your relationship, but rather distance.

I was just thinking the other day what an amazing man Andrew is to sacrifice so much time with our son in order to receive training to have a job that will support us fully. I can hardly allow Bennett to be away from me long enough for someone to hold him let alone to spend four months and never get to see him...I hadn't realized before Andrew left what a sacrifice it truly would be for him.

What a mighty God we serve.