only help my unbelief


The pros and cons of growing up
January 19, 2009, 2:53 pm
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“I can’t believe we’re going to buy a car,” Christian said Saturday while we drove to Greenville.

“I know; it’s such a grown-up thing to do,” I affirmed.

As it turned out, we’re not quite the grown-ups we thought we were. It hadn’t occurred to us that the sellers wouldn’t want to take a check, so we drove to the nearest gas station and took out fourteen hundred dollarsin $20 bills.

Christian was blocking the view of my vest pocket where I was stuffing the wads of cash as we took money out of the ATM, $200 at a time.

Buying a car was fun. We may have fumbled a bit here and there in the process, but we made it back to Columbia with one more car than we owned on the way up there. It runs, it’s in good condition, and my time spent driving to hang out with Christian is going to decrease drastically.

There are other things, though, that aren’t quite as fun about growing up. Paying taxes is at the top of my current “Why-I’d-rather-not-grow-up” list. I’ve done my taxes by myself for the past two years, but this year they’ll be more complicated than last year. I’m going to help Christian with his taxes, too, and his will be even more complicated.

Getting married is a good part of growing up, and in the last couple weeks I’ve discovered that getting married has perks beyond the actually getting married part. Our wedding registries are modest – we only asked for things we really, really needed – and so when I got a package that included a comforter, bed skirt and kitchen utensils, and then another package today with a CrockPot, I could hardly contain myself. If all I have is a a wonderful husband, a warm, cozy bed and the ability to cook to my heart’s desire, I’ll be content for the rest of my life.

Another con – answering questions about what I’m “going to do with my life.” Lately I’ve been listening to the song “Have Thine Own Way” over and over again, and I wish that I could play that song as a response to that question. So far, my plans only go as far as April with a whole lot of specificity: Get married. Then the plans become vague and ambiguous, mostly having to do with pursuing Christ in such a way that I can be an excellent wife and prepare to have and raise godly kids. But somehow, that’s just not enough for everyone.

When I was 10 or 11, I made a list of “all” the things I would do when I got to college, which was my way of listing all the things I could do when I was old enough to decide what I did. The List: 1) Each month, make a bowl of brownie mix and just eat the batter; 2) Eat a bagel every morning for breakfast.

If only life were so simple.



Here we go, 2009
January 1, 2009, 8:00 am
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So I’m not a huge fan of pointless New Year’s resolutions, but I think that it’s always good to take stock of where you are and see areas in which God still needs to grow you. After all, even the Psalmist prays, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me, and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)

In order to keep myself accountable like I mentioned in my post yesterday, I’m gonna stick these resolutions over in a page on the right sidebar. I’ll check back in once a month and see where I’m at.

I haven’t included anything like “Read the Bible more” because 1) that’s something hard to measure and 2) I don’t want to treat my relationship with God like I treat my workout plan at the gym. He’s eternal and holy and precious, and if anything else, I want to pray more that I would be like Jesus. But that’s not going on this list, because I want that to be the cry of my heart.

Spiritual

  • Finish memorizing 1 John before our wedding
  • Start memorizing a longer book of the Bible (maybe one of Paul’s epistles; Philippians?) and finish it before the end of the year
  • Write Lisbet, the little girl I sponsor through Compassion, at least one letter a month
  • Work with the children in my Sunday School class to memorize the rest of the first 10 questions of the First Catechism (we can do it, Lee!)

Physical

  • Compete in a 5-10K race
  • Lose 10-15 pounds before our wedding
  • Lose 25 pounds by the end of the year
  • Avoid soft drinks and other sugary beverages / no soft drinks until after the wedding

Financial

  • Have less than $7,000 to pay off of Christian’s loan by the end of the year
  • Plan a budget for each month and stick to it
  • Save up enough money throughout the year for next year’s Christmas presents
  • Stay within our wedding budget

Miscellaneous

  • “Compete” with Christian to see who can read the most books (more about this another day)
  • Pursue more freelance editing opportunities and other forms of alternative incomes

I feel like all of these things are do-able, mostly because some of them I’m already in the process of doing; I just want to continue them in the new year. For example, Christian and I have both been sticking to a budget for the last three months. We’ve both stayed within a few dollars of our budget each month, which has been an awesome discipline. As far as Bible memorization, I’m about 1/3 of the way through 1 John, and it is a joy.

I think the hardest part will be the physical things. I purposefully didn’t say anything like “work out four times a week,” because that’s destined to fail in the face of busy schedules and unexpected engagements. Losing weight isn’t all about working out; it’s also about eating healthfully, so I think that it’s definitely attainable – it will just require a lot of sacrifice.

What are your New Year’s resolutions? I promise not to make fun. 😉



Five things about New Year’s resolutions
December 31, 2008, 8:00 am
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I promised I’d tell you what I think about New Year’s resolutions. Here ya go…

1. New Year’s resolutions are more for December than January.
Christmas is coming up, you’ve been spending more money than you wanted to, you’ve been eating more food than you wanted to, and gosh, there just isn’t time to go to the gym. Instead of cutting spending, counting calories and highailing it to the local YMCA, it’s much easier to sit down and make a list of all the things you’re going to do after January 1. Thus in addition to the general abundance of The Christmas Spirit that everyone is always talking about, you’re also experiencing a happy dose of denial about how much is exactly going to change in the new year. And when January comes and you don’t meet any of your goals, no big deal, because who keeps their resolutions, anyway?

2. There’s no accountability with New Year’s resolutions.
I’m speaking broadly here; maybe some of you do share your resolutions with other people. But I’d venture that most people (bloggers excluded) jot down a few things privately, trying to will themselves to change. It just doesn’t work. We’re quite skilled at lying to ourselves and justifying things into legitimacy. Without accountability, there isn’t anyone to tell you that you’re actually not doing all that well at keeping your resolutions.

3. Most people make resolutions that are virtually impossible to attain.
One year, I made a resolution that I wasn’t going to eat chocolate. Those of you who know me are probably wondering why in the world I would do this. I don’t know. Guess how long I lasted? Less than a day. Another year I gave up soft drinks, and it was hard, yes, but I managed it until my birthday in March, at which time all I wanted was a Coke. So I drank it. And never got back off (or is it on?) the wagon.

4. Most resolutions are made for the sheer purpose of making resolutions or to assuage guilt.
You really can’t expect to succeed if you’re completely void of internal and external motivators. The year I gave up chocolate, I just gave it up because I wanted to see if I could do it. That wasn’t enough. If I had discovered in December of the previous year that I had diabetes and needed to give up sweets, I bet it would have been a lot easier. So if you’re thinking about making some resolutions, make sure they’re things that matter to you. If you want to exercise more, then do it because you desire to be healthy. If you want to read the Bible more, do it because you want to know God – not so you can say you read the Bible in a year.

5. Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1)
If you don’t read anything else I’ve written, read this. If you don’t put God at the center of your goals, your resolutions, your plans, then it’s all a waste of time. Willing yourself to read your Bible every day won’t work. You have to get on your knees before the Lord, ask Him to give you a desire for His Word, and then you have to open your Bible every day. But the thing is, God’s not up there keeping a tally mark system like you are. If you miss a day, you may feel like a failure, but God doesn’t. He’s more concerned with you continuing to press on to know Him than He is with you reading four chapters of the Bible each night. The same is true of any other resolution. If your goals are more financial, ask God to make you a wise steward of what He gives you. If they are heath-related resolutions, then pray for God to let you glorify Him with your body. And then wake up tomorrow morning awash in the grace He so freely offers, grace that is greater than all our sin and failed resolutions.



I really should be in bed
December 21, 2008, 11:24 pm
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Today was a full day.

I woke up this morning and got to church early to greet the kids in my Sunday school class. Almost all of them were there, which is rare, and we had a special craft to do courtesy of Lee – picture frames to decorate, with pictures of our class that we took last week. The kids loved the pictures, and decorating the frames took an incredibly long time, which was actually great. I loved sitting there helping them put the stickers on and talking about the pictures.

After church Christian and I drove back to my house and ate a delicious lunch. Then my mom took us over to her friend’s house, where her friend and her friend’s daughter took some engagement pictures for us. I don’t know how they turned out yet, but we did have a good time making each other laugh and feeling somewhat awkward at trying to look like we weren’t posing.

That only took about an hour, so we came back to my house and relaxed with my parents until it was time to drive back to church.

We were in the 2- and 3-year-old nursery tonight, so it was the same kids I have in Sunday school. They were super sweet tonight, wanting to sit in our laps and read books and take silly pictures. My heart was full of them when we left.

After that we went to a Christmas party where we got to fellowship with friends from church. It was a really relaxing, joyful time, and we felt refreshed when it was over.

We drove back to church to pick up Christian’s car.

I dropped him off and was about to drive off, but I waited because he didn’t have his cell phone with him. God was so gracious.

Christian’s car wouldn’t start. Even though a couple weeks ago it was in the shop for two weeks. And we paid almost $1,000 to get it fixed.

We were able to jump it, but we still don’t know what the problem is.

We have a lead on a car someone is trying to sell before they go on the mission field, so we’re going to call them again tomorrow to see if that’s a possibility, but we know it’s all in God’s hands.

If you think about it, please pray for us. It seems kind of like we’re drowning. There’s the wedding to plan, and we’re still looking for an apartment, and now we need to find a new car as soon as possible. We know God is big enough to handle all this and more, but our faith is being tested, and we know that God hears the prayers of the saints.

Honestly, though, I’m thankful for these trials. Tonight on the way home the song “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” came on my iPod, and it was just what I needed to hear. I don’t think there’s ever been a Christmas when I wanted Jesus to come and overshadow me more than I do this year.

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel



My favorite part – so far – of Pilgrim’s Progress
June 6, 2008, 7:14 pm
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I mentioned the other day that you could downoad an audio version of Pilgrim’s Progress for free. The offer’s still good; it goes through the end of June.

I’m only in the third stage of Part 1, but I’m enjoying it so much. There’s so much to take in. As Christian (my boyfriend) said to me today, it’s like a book full of sermon illustrations. Not that I so much need sermon illustrations for anything, but still.

My favorite passage so far is from when Christian (the book character) leaves the Palace Beautiful and is headed to catch up with faithful. The four virgins walk with him a little bit of the way, and they discuss his former life…

PRUDENCE: Do you not think sometimes of the country from whence you came?

CHRISTIAN: Yea, but with much shame and detestation. Truly, if I had been mindful of that country from whence I came out, I might have had opportunity to have returned; but now I desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.

PRUDENCE: Do you not yet bear away with you some of the things that then you were conversant withal? (Chelsey: Basically, she’s asking if he still struggles with sin.)

CHRISTIAN: Yes, but greatly against my will; especially my inward and carnal cogitations (Chelsey: thoughts and temptations), with which all my countrymen, as well as myself, were delighted. But now all those things are my grief; and might I but choose mine own things, I would choose never to think of those things more: but when I would be a doing that which is best, that which is worst is with me.

PRUDENCE: Do you not find sometimes as if those things were vanquished, which at other times are your perplexity?

CHRISTIAN: Yes, but that is but seldom; but they are to me golden hours in which such things happen to me.

PRUDENCE: Can you remember by what means you find your annoyances at times as if they were vanquished?

CHRISTIAN: Yes: when I think what I saw at the cross, that will do it; and when I look upon my broidered coat, that will do it; and when I look into the roll that I carry in my bosom, that will do it; and when my thoughts wax warm about whither I am going, that will do it.

PRUDENCE: And what is it that makes you so desirous to go to Mount Zion?

CHRISTIAN: Why, there I hope to see Him alive that did hang dead on the cross; and there I hope to be rid of all those things that to this day are in me an annoyance to me: there they say there is no death, and there I shall dwell with such company as I like best. For, to tell you the truth, I love Him because I was by Him eased of my burden; and I am weary of my inward sickness. I would fain be where I shall die no more, and with the company that shall continually cry, Holy, holy, holy.



Jesus is unconditionally committed to me
June 26, 2007, 11:22 pm
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The gospel gives you psychological freedom to handle the wrong things that you will do. You won’t have to deny, spin, or repress the truth about yourself. These things don’t make it impossible to know who you are. Only with the support of hearing Jesus say, ‘You are capable of terrible things, but I am absolutely, unconditionally committed to you,’ will you be able to be honest with yourself. – Tim Keller

I found this quote in an article on one of the blogs I read, and I starred the article to save for later because what Keller says here resonates with me so well. I have a serious psychological problem handling the wrong things that I’ve done or that I’m afraid of doing. There are things I say that are unkind. There are things I do that are unnecessary. There are things I don’t do that were needful at the time. And I am constantly thinking thoughts that should never enter into my head.

And in order to handle myself, if I forget about Jesus, my only option is to pretend that I didn’t really do or say those things, because the truth is too great to bear. And so I ignore the sin in my life, and I become someone whom I am not. I know longer know who I am anymore.

Last night in an email to Christian I told him that sometimes it’s hard for me to pray to God when I’m really hurting, because I know that when God begins to deal with my heart He will get all the way to the deepest part, and that might hurt more than anything else. But it is only through that immense pain of God dealing with us that we can have pure hearts; it is only when Christ scrapes away all the filth that we are clean.

And Jesus can honestly say that we are capable of terrible things. Some of us do those terrible things. But in light of His grace and knowing that He is unconditionally committed to us, we have the freedom to see our sin for what it is. And what it is is something that does not have victory over us.

Praise the Lord.



Jesus, the sweetest Name I know
June 26, 2007, 12:05 am
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There are tears that fall that seem to form in the depths of your soul, and by the time they emerge from your eyes they are big as bowling balls, and make it all the way down the collar of your shirt before they dissolve, carrying little pieces of your heart with them.

I find myself constantly let down because of the expectations I put on other people. As the hymnwriter says, “Human hearts and looks deceive me,” and he goes on to say, “Thou art not like them untrue.”

Sometimes it feels like I’ve been given a cross that is far too heavy for me to bear, but then I wonder if maybe that means I’m either carrying the wrong cross, or that I’m not really expected to carry it alone in the first place.

Jesus.

He is the Name above all names, and it is the sweetest Name I know. And right now I want to grab onto Him as tightly as I can and never let go.