When will a blog post not begin with the lamentation of how swiftly time passes? How quickly 2019 is waning; how many months have come and gone since I last jotted down my thoughts with any coherence; how much life experience packed into the first winter, spring, summer, and fall as a new wife. As always, I wait for the words to come, and for many months now the words have only formed jumbled half-sentences in my head and heart – thoughts, emotions, and events happening too quickly to fully process. But today, on a crisp, autumn afternoon, the thoughts are present in a more complete fashion, so I sit in front of a sunny window, steaming hot tea in hand, to share them with you.
How to recap the last nine months succinctly, while yet going beyond the factual surface of bullet points and calendar highlights? A few alliterative descriptors come to mind. (Once a Baptist pastor’s daughter, haha…)
Happy. Blissful, riotous joy – such has been the newlywed life in the days since we said “I do.” Words fail to describe the delight it has been to know this kind of love…to laugh, dream, adventure, and grow in unity with a most precious man, through whom I consistently catch new glimpses of my Heavenly Father. I am so blessed by my husband, and so very thankful for the opportunity to grow in new grace in the journey that is marriage. It is a tremendous privilege to choose to “keep covenant” together, time and again, each and every day.
Four seasons of adventures together, with many more to come!
Apparently January is destined to be a big month for our family, for in May, we found out that our joy will multiply around our one-year anniversary with the arrival of our first child! I am a fairly private person, but I would be remiss if I did not publicly give glory to God for this little one, having been told for many years that I would most likely struggle to conceive. I have contemplated my growing belly with awe, as the truth of Psalm 139 unfolds before my eyes in a whole new way. And it is now – before all the sleepless nights and the nitty-gritty of keeping him or her warm and dry and fed and happy begins – that I pray that this truth sinks down deep: that our primary task as parents is to steward and shepherd this precious life towards Christ, and to help, not hinder, their journey of discovery of the things that God Himself has planned for them since before the foundation of the world. What a joyous responsibility!
Hard. Just beyond the “just we two”, and just outside the walls of our cozy home, lurks an anxiety I’ve never grappled with before. The move from Tennessee to central Washington state…a complete upheaval of all the people, places, and things I’ve ever known or cared for…change multiplied by change…I “lift my eyes up to the hills”, and even there no comfort is to be found, for all I see is the stark, imposing grandeur of the Cascade Mountains, so very different from my beloved Appalachians. As I struggle to find my way – attempting to make sense of new realities, and to find meaning and purpose in them, while aching with a kind of primal desperation to hold the familiar and cherished in my grasp once again – “fragile” is the adjective that has burrowed its way into my soul. Yet as John Piper says, “If you wake up feeling fragile, remember that God is not, and trust Him to be everything you need today.” Quite frankly, I do not yet see the light at the end of this tunnel. I do not yet know how God will bring resolution, and work all things for our good and His glory…but I know He will. He is writing a bigger Story, and mine is just a infinitesimal fraction of the whole; and yet He is faithful and kind to me. That is the light and hope and peace in any darkness, and I hope that encourages someone else in their own particular tunnel today!
Holy. The confluence of joy and tears, the conflicting tides of personal circumstances, the gravity of world events: all reverberate with a renewed perspective of the holiness of God, and the holiness that He desires to work in His people. How often the opportunities for our sanctification occur through the most ordinary and basely human of experiences. How frequently the choices to bring Him glory come through the most mundane and humble and unseen of little moments that are yet as ablaze with sanctity as the burning bush. How faithfully and gently God pries our fingers loose from our hold on anything but Himself – remaking us without breaking us. For me personally, this year has challenged many of the things that have cushioned my own notions of holiness in the past – cultural norms, people on pedestals, an overblown reliance on community, perhaps; even well-heeled ideas of what constitutes meaningful contribution to the Kingdom – things that, in being refined or stripped away, have left me nowhere to look but to the face of God, and no choice but to embrace every moment as sacred. “Thou and Thou only, first in my heart…” May God grant that it be so.
Home. If there is one word that pulses with every heartbeat, it is this one. The tension between the daily delights and cares and privilege of “making” one home, and the poignant sting of missing another…I’ve thought about “home” deeply and often of late, and I leave you with this thought. Not too long ago, my husband and I enjoyed watching the recently-released animated version of The Pilgrim’s Progress – one of my very favorite classics. (These maps of Christian’s journey are some much-loved artwork as well!) I was reminded anew that every trial, pang, and loss we experience on our journey of the Narrow Way can either divide and distract our attention, or rightfully sharpen our longing for the Celestial City. Nothing less than the final destination will satisfy the deepest desires with which we were created. I looked forward to marriage and a home of my own for a very long time, only to find that there are new holes in my heart now that those particular desires have been fulfilled. And I know that one day those will be filled, and new ones will take their place. So I’m learning to live with the tension of the “already/not yet”…to drink deeply of the graces offered as moments of rest and refreshing along the path, without building a dwelling at the cistern…to be profoundly grateful for the companions God sends along the way, without clinging more tightly to them than to the Shepherd and King who waits at journey’s end. And I pray today that you, too, will fix your gaze on the final, eternal, glorious Home.