Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Battle of the Bugs!!!

This year we are doing Thanksgiving at our house. I'm loving the idea that I don't have to travel during the holiday and can stay in my own home and relax. Of course, I wanted the place to look as nice as possible for when my in-laws arrive. The past few days has been a marathon of detailed cleaning. We even painted the sunroom so that it has a clean, fresh coat. (that's something we've been meaning to do for months anyway, this was the perfect excuse to stop putting it off!) Today my task has been cleaning the outside of the house. Now, keep in mind that we live back in the woods. It gets dirty here, y'all. And there are bugs. And there's not exactly a home owner's association to make sure our house stays pressure-washed and sparkling. Also, we rent, so there isn't the same level of pride in caring for every minute detail of the home. Now, don't get me wrong. Our house is not disgusting or overrun or anything like that. But the outside just hasn't been scrubbed in...Idk...maybe ever. So, today I took to it with a bucket of soapy water, a scrub brush, and the hose. So far I've done most of one side of the house. It's the carport side and the side which we use the most often for entering, exiting, and hanging out. Aside from the manual labor, the dirt, and the fact that it's 80 DEGREES here, the worst part of this whole ordeal has been the BUGS! And you know how I feel about bugs. (If you don't know--I hate them!) It seems that between each piece of vinyl siding lives a spider. And that spider is not too happy about me spraying and tearing down his home. Really I only saw about 4 or 5, but I know there are others out there...too scared to show their evil little faces! I opened up a box of Frisbee horseshoes and found two massive cockroaches. I couldn't even bring myself to step on them because they were so big. If they were in the house I definitely would have done it, but since they were outside...I just shrunk away and watched them scurry off into the yard. Yeah, I know. They'll probably come back for me later. Great.
So, I'm scrubbing, spraying, sweating, on guard for a bug to appear at any moment, and there are gnats buzzing in my ears! GNATS! In NOVEMBER! What, do they hibernate under ground when it gets cold out? I was pretty sure they had all migrated or died or whatever they do when the weather dips below 50 degrees. But wherever they went, it obviously wasn't far, because now that it's 80 out here, they are back in action. Ridiculous.

Well, I guess I better get back to it! Still have the front porch to deal with. *sigh* And then it's time to shower and look presentable before the in-laws arrive this afternoon. All I can say is my husband better be impressed with how clean the house looks! (He had to work today...I guess I should give him SOME credit!)

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all! :)


Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Love Story With Jesus: Part 4 (The Wonderful Part!)

{Part 1} {Part 2} {Part 3}

Scott & I got married in May of 2009. We definitely considered ourselves Christians. We were going to church, and—still slowly—learning more about God. Our friends Christine & Brice were huge sources of encouragement. To be honest, at first we were put-off by them. We got defensive when they witnessed to us. We felt like we were doing just fine, why should they tell us how to live? Of course, that’s not what they were doing, but that’s how it felt to our hardened hearts. But they were consistent. Always loving us and pouring into us with God’s love and truth. Christine invited me to join a Bible study with her. She was the only girl I knew in the whole group, but I went for a few weeks. We were reading a book called Becoming a Woman of Excellence. It was one of those study books where you had topics and verses and you had to answer questions and reflect on things. Therefore, I was spending more time in The Word. Reading the Bible had always been something I thought of as too boring or confusing to do much of. I didn’t think I would ever actual enjoy it or get anything out of it. The majority of my Bible reading happened in church. But because of this book I was led to scripture, and God spoke to me through that.

While this was going on, I was going through another life transition. I was in my second year of graduate school to become a teacher, a few months into student teaching, and I withdrew from the program. I decided not to teach. But I had no other plans. No job. No classes. So, I spent a lot of time at home alone for the next few months. In my free time, I decided to devote 30 minutes a day to God. I had always heard people talk about their “quiet time” or “time with God.” I figured I would give that a shot. I started out mostly reading and studying for my Bible study group. Then I decided to branch out from that a bit. But as I said, my knowledge of the Bible was sparse. I didn’t know where to begin! One day, during my quiet time, I picked up a book I had received from college graduation: The Purpose Driven Life for the Graduate. It’s basically just a book of verses, grouped together by different topics. I figured I would start there, find a verse or two that sounded interesting, and then go to The Bible for more depth and clarity.

The very first verse I stumbled across was Ephesians 1:4-5. “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, he predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will.” The first thing that jumped out to me was “holy and blameless.” I had been trying to be holy and blameless for so long. I was so tired and frustrated at always failing, at never feeling fulfilled. Why does He call us to be perfect when it’s IMPOSSIBLE?? But then I studied the verse further. I read through it several times, read the surrounding verses, read the commentary in my study Bible, and prayed about it. I probably spent a whole 30 minutes thinking about that verse! And I can tell you with absolute certainty and joy that when I walked away from those 30 minutes, I was a different person. I was saved, and I believed it!

I’ll break the verse down for you a bit, so you can see how this really opened up Christianity to me in a way I had never understood before. First of all, God chose me. Before the world even started! He knew me and chose me as a child of God! I realized the importance of being holy and blameless “in His sight.” I will never be perfect on this side of eternity, but I can find peace in knowing that God sees me as perfect. He is amazingly forgiving and, not only that, he forgets my past! It’s erased, gone, as if it never happened! Of course, it still impacts me, though I try not to let it. But to God, I never committed those sins. All that stuff I was feeling guilty about—forgotten! I realized God adopted us as children through Jesus. Not through me being a good person. Not through me making all the right choices and putting forth just the right amount of effort. Not through me abstaining from sex or going to church. JESUS did it. NOT ME.

And let me tell you, when you understand that—and I mean really grasp what that means, and when you believe that, you can’t help but to look at the situation differently. I suddenly realized: this is not about me! It’s about Jesus! All that pressure of having to be perfect was lifted. Suddenly I was overcome with thankfulness, joy, and love for Jesus for making that sacrifice for me and bridging the gap between me and God. And when you really believe what Jesus did, you suddenly don’t feel like you’re fulfilling a mandatory do’s and don’ts list to get to Heaven. You don’t feel tired and frustrated and like giving up. You feel unbelievably thankful, and all you can do is worship God for that. I cried tears of joy and relief. I let go of all my self-righteousness and decided right then and there that I was relying on the righteousness of God to cleanse me, guide me, and eventually bring me to Heaven.

After that all I wanted to do was learn more about my God and Savior! I was fired up! I read through the New Testament like it was addictive Young Adult fiction! I spent at least 30 minutes a day singing worship music, journaling, writing poetry, and reading the Bible. I was constantly jotting down verses and leaving them around the house—on the fridge, bulletin boards, our dry erase board was filled with them! I wanted to share all that I was learning with Scott. He was excited for me, but was also a little overwhelmed. He tried to read the Bible every day, too, but I could tell he was doing it because he felt guilty otherwise. He wanted to share in my enthusiasm. But I could tell it was forced.

Praise God that within just a few short weeks, Scott was also saved! He came to the same realizations I did during a church service where the pastor talked about God’s grace in his life. Scott left that service in tears, admitting that this was the first time he understood and appreciated God’s grace. And then he joined me in my “crazy Christian” antics. We read the Bible together, prayed together, went to church and a college service during the week.

Eventually the church service we were attending closed down. You can imagine my sorrow and frustration that yet another church I had grown to love was ending. We started going to the regular church services at First United Methodist, but found they simply weren’t fulfilling (or interesting) enough. So, thus began our church-shopping ventures part 2! That was a whole new chapter of challenges. We would try a church, talk about our likes and dislikes, and pick a new one… And there were plenty of times that we did not agree on everything. I wanted to go to Christine & Brice’s church, but Scott wasn’t feeling called there. I decided to submit to his spiritual leadership and trust that God would guide Scott to the perfect church home for us. And God did just that. We ended up at Connection Church, where we still attend—a year and a half later. Connection is a plant-church, and it was only a little over a year old at the time. It was still pretty small. But it has since grown tremendously! We now meet in a high school auditorium and sometimes have up to 700+ attendants! Scott & I both serve as leaders in different entities of the church. I work with the babies in children’s church. Scott works as a team leader in the parking lot, and has recently started leading worship for the 1st thru 5th graders in children’s church.

On October 9, 2011 our church did spontaneous baptisms. We had gotten a baptismal pool from another church that was moving, and they set it up in the parking lot. They did not tell us ahead of time that we were doing this. The sermon was all about taking the next step in your walk and how for many of us, that was a public demonstration of our dedication to God and the washing of our sins—baptism. Well, you know I was already baptized when I was 17, but I could hardly compare that to who I am now. That baptism was important and special to me, but I don’t think it was a true “believer’s baptism” as I didn’t understand the truths of what I was doing and who God is. Scott was baptized as a baby in the Catholic Church, but obviously could not remember that, nor did he have a choice in that matter. We both decided to get baptized at Connection on this day! It was an amazing experience. 54 people in our church made the decision to get baptized that day! It was powerful and beautiful. Here is a video documenting the day. Please watch. It’s short, but powerful!

And now, I cannot say that my life is perfect. I’m not perfect. And I have seasons in my faith. Some days I don’t feel particularly excited about or connected to God. Some days I’m angry with Him. Sometimes I feel tired and frustrated like I used to. It really is a constant journey and a series of lessons—many of which I learn over and over again. But I have joy unlike any other time in my life, and that joy is unshaken by the world because it comes from God and my relationship with Him. And even if that’s not as smooth as I like, I know that God is good, faithful, and merciful…He is always there to guide me, provide for me, love me, forgive me, and accept me. And for that I am eternally grateful. And with that gratitude, comes all the worship and service I give to Him. And I am happy to do it.

My love story with Jesus is by no means over. It’s an eternal story that will continue to develop. But this is how it all started, and I can say with all certainty we will live joyfully ever after… 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Love Story With Jesus: Part 3

I realize this is taking me about 5 months to write! I apologize for my inconsistency. School has been crazy this semester, and this isn't exactly something you quickly write about before class. The good news is I've finished the story! This is the not the last part, but I've got the last one written and scheduled for tomorrow. So you'll have the rest of it, rapid fire! :)

You'll remember from the last part that I had just thrown myself into my new relationship with Scott. As Scott & I got more and more serious, I quickly realized that he could be the man I marry. And that forced me to think beyond the present. I had to think about what I wanted my life to look like years from now, with a husband and kids. I could not ignore the nagging concern that we would never be able to happily attend the same church. How would we raise our children? Would we be like my family and just not go? Would we adopt Scott’s Catholic upbringing and have them go through the traditions and customs of that denomination? Would I find a Protestant church and have them alternate weekends? None of those options brought peace. At this point I’m not sure I was motivated by a desire to know God, but rather a desire for the picture of a happy family, sharing beliefs and traditions.

I shared this with Scott. He wanted to make me happy, but he was very resistant to stepping out of his comfort zone of the traditions of the Catholic mass. To be fair, we decided we would alternate weekends. I would go to the Catholic Church twice a month, and on the other weekends, we would try out Protestant churches together. It was hard to stay motivated because of the inconsistency of services. Especially with me not having a church of my own, there were a lot of trial and error situations with “church-shopping.”

I remember one service at our friends Christine & Brice’s church (you may remember them as my old roommates from the previous parts of this story). During worship, people were raising their hands, shouting thanks to God, and one girl even cheered DURING a song. Scott fidgeted, looked uncomfortable, and whispered to me, “She would be excommunicated at my church!” We went to church every weekend, appeasing each other, but never truly feeling comfortable. I didn’t like the standing and kneeling, the formal atmosphere, and the restricted communion of the Catholic Church. Scott didn’t like the loud music, hand-raising and amen-ing, casual atmosphere of the more contemporary churches we tried.

Finally, and I honestly don’t remember exactly how it happened, we settled on a church! It was First United Methodist. We attended the college services, even though we both had graduated. It was still formal enough for Scott and contemporary enough for me. Eventually Scott came to enjoy and actually prefer the contemporary atmosphere. So, that’s how we found a church together.

In the midst of this, we were both slowly growing closer to God. We were also growing closer to each other. We got engaged in October of 2008, just a couple months after finding our church. Funnily enough, I have to say God used the show 7th Heaven to guide us to abstinence. Scott & I had been watching reruns (yes, we’re that cool) and Simon was deciding if he wanted to have premarital sex. Of course, being a pastor’s dad, this was something he was expected NOT to do. But…he ends up doing it. Scott & I talked about how disappointed we were in Simon (yes, a little post-show reflection…haha!). I don’t remember the specifics of the conversation, but we ended up both disclosing that we felt guilty about having sex. I was SO relieved to have a partner who shared that feeling! It was incredible, like a huge weight had been lifted from my chest. Our wedding was still about 8 months away. I said something like, “Well, I’m sure you don’t want to stop now. Our wedding is too far away.” And he surprised me by saying he thought it was a good idea. Granted, it was probably easier for us knowing that the end was in sight. I’m not sure how we would have done if we weren’t even engaged yet. But I think God would have given us the strength to make that decision either way.

Now we were really growing closer to God. But still, as you can tell by my preoccupation with sex and drinking and all the rules, our focus was still skewed. I was trying with all my might to be a good person, someone worthy of God’s love and grace. I wanted to be perfect. For the first time in my life, I thought I was getting there. I didn’t have that pesky sexual immorality slowing me down. But there was not much joy in it. I felt like I was running a race I was not equipped to run. I was getting tired, frustrated, and angry with myself for not being able to meet perfection. I always thought if I could stop having sex I would be in the clear. But something was still missing. I was so confused because I was doing all the stuff. You know…church, praying, occasional Bible study… I wasn’t committing those really bad sins anymore. Why didn’t I feel fulfilled? It was so hard.

**The remaining post is scheduled and ready to go! You won't have to wait long, I promise!**

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fall Decor and a little more

Sorry I've been MIA. What else is new, huh? But the good news is school is finally starting to slow down and I should have more time to blog. Hopefully!! 

Anyway, here are some pictures of what we've been up to lately. :)

George L. Smith State Park
Look at how low the water is! And aren't the trunks crazy?

We were hipsters for Halloween. Turns out it just looked like we were wearing normal clothes.
It was funnier in our heads! ha!

Nice faces. We were trying not to smile.

So serious. So hip.

Scott dressed as a vampire for work on Halloween. Creepy!

Cool running picture

Our fall decor :)

Fall decor. Framed leaves from our yard, mason jar of candy corn, and a leaf candle from TJ Maxx ($3.00)

More fall touches. Mason jar full of leaves. 

I added some fake berries for extra color. 
Anyway, that's basically it, folks. That and seeing the new Footloose on Saturday. A very fun movie. :) Hope all is well with you all. I hope to be blogging more frequently soon! :)


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