Computer babble

open standing on bar stools laptops

Computers have come a long way–but there are still plenty of problems.

My husband Ben made a website for me.  He’s got skills I don’t have in my daydreams.  He can do that crazy coding stuff where strange combinations of symbols make the computer do things.  I don’t really get it.  One time I thought about it, and I realized it changes not only the pixels, but the stuff that makes the pages move around.  It’s too complex for me.  Anyway, Ben made a website for me.

It’s amazing to me that Ben typed stuff in the computer and now there are buttons I can press that actually work, and I can not only upload blogs and photos, but also change the font, link to sources, and preview the website–did I mention I don’t understand how this works?

But there is something I do understand.  My computer doesn’t like his computer.

Yes, my computer doesn’t like his computer.

If his computer speaks repsoifad092 language, mine must speak wzasdou817 language.  Things that work on the program when it’s on his computer don’t work when they’re on my computer.

And so we’re sorta at an impasse with me posting things for the website until we get it figured out.  I’m going to send him this post via email, because that part of talking to his computer works, and then his repsoifad092 can publish it on the website editor that my wzasdou817 doesn’t understand.

I’m so delighted that God is not in the business of speaking different means of salvation to us.  Can you imagine how confusing it would be if salvation were a code, and we had to decipher it personally, and it meant something different for everyone?

But God’s Word isn’t like that.  John 3:16 means the same thing for everyone, whether you were born in 1969 or 1999, whether you like cream in your coffee or not, whether you wear brown shoes or black, and whether everybody knows your sins or you’ve kept them pretty hidden.

John 3:16 is the salvation language for everyone.  And that’s that.

I love how perfectly simple the Gospel is.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NLT)

Advertisements

God’s love

God loves us so much He’s willing to take us in any condition.  He’s even willing to go through the humiliation of saving those whose hearts are so far away that, even in their lifetime, they don’t get to a place of building His reputation.

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. (1 John 4:16a, NLT)

Published in: on March 3, 2014 at 11:58 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Because of the witch . .

As a child (ok, and an adult), when I like something, I tend to be eccentric about it.  Very eccentric.  I don’t want just one Gooseberry Patch cookbook.  I want bookshelves of them.  I don’t just like mango sticky rice at our local Thai house.  I could eat it just about every night.  And when I used to watch ML baseball, I was so eccentric about the Yankees that I would take a nap in the afternoon so I could stay up and watch the late-night games!!

So as a kid, when I say that I liked Snow White & The Seven Dwarves, I’m talking about that eccentric thing again.

Back then, you couldn’t buy the movie on VHS.  The only way you could see it was when it came out for a limited time at the theaters.  So my job was to convince anyone and everyone to take me to see the movie while it was still playing.  Mostly, that meant merely asking my daddy, who was a huge cartoon (and daughter) fan.

So when my parents surprised me with a trip to Disney World on my seventh birthday (and I got to skip days in kindergarten to go), I was wearing my proverbial Mickey Mouse ears before we ever stepped off the plane.

While we were there, there was of course Winnie the Pooh and Robin Hood, Cinderella’s palace and the spinning teacups that my mother could write an entire novel on the love & persuasion of a daughter and the regret of a mother in riding 😉 . .  but the big deal, the really fantastic ride was the Snow White and Seven Dwarves (SWat7D) adventure ride.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.  To the 7-year-old eccentric Grumpy-fan mind (I was, after all, going to marry him when I grew up and was happy to tell everybody), there could be nothing better at Disney than riding in a train cart and visiting Snow White and the Seven Dwarves *INCLUDING* GRUMPY!!

Gasp, gasp.

I couldn’t wait to ride the SWat7D adventure ride.  Kindergarten bliss.

The whole universe of Disney revolved around this one ride.

But ask me how many times I rode this ride, and I’ll tell you . .

NONE.

(none)

. .

. . .

So why, you may ask, did I never ride it?

. .

. . .

Because of the witch.

Because of the witch, I never rode the SWat7D adventure ride.

Not even once.

Before boarding the ride, my mom–who knew that, like my eccentricity in love, I have my obsessiveness in fears–told me that on the ride, there was a moment where the witch appeared and tried to offer you an apple.

My eyes shot open like I was in the middle of a horror movie.

The witch??

The witch was on my ride??

My special ride??

The paralysis of fear was alleviated only by one remedy I could come up with:

Not ride the ride.

Oh, the disappointment.  The shame in letting my family down.  And the ache that I could not meet the 7 dwarves.

But all of it was capsized by the fear of the witch.

I simply could not handle the thought of the witch trying to hand me an apple.

And so I refused to ride the ride.

Day after day, my mom tried to coax me into riding my most favorite attraction.

But I never did.

On the last day, I had one last chance.

And I didn’t take it.

She assured me I could close my eyes.  That it was a brief moment.  That she’d be with me.

But I couldn’t do it.

I was just too afraid.

Because of the witch.

. .

. . .

Do you have a witch?

Something that is stopping you from realizing God’s dreams for your life?

Are you so afraid of meeting the witch, that you’ll forego the joys God has in the adventure of living?

If so, you’re in good company.

You are, after all, listening to the 7-year-old who wouldn’t experience the best ride of all . . because of the witch.

What’s the solution?

Be braver?   Be stronger?  Roar through it?  Act like a Viking and hope nobody sees you as a coward?

Or hide?  Avoid?  Make excuses?  Deny?  Wither up in a corner?

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT)

The solution is,

Trust in the Spirit.

Trust.

He’s not given you fear or timidity.

He’s not given you the inability or incapability of facing the witch.

He’s right there with you.

Ready for the adventure.

Go on it with Him.

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times.

(from Romans 8, the Message, approx. verses 15-18)

Your Love

Your love is One-of-a-kind and the world won’t see it from anywhere or anyone else if they don’t see it from You.

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. (2 Thessalonians 3:5, NIV)

Published in: on October 14, 2013 at 4:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Engaged

Between trying not to hyperventilate, crying, laughter, and shock, I got to watch my own proposal.

Engagement Ben Ring 3

It started with an invitation.

Ben asked me out for dinner on Sunday, June 2.  He suggested I change from the capris I’d been wearing for street ministry back into the skirt I’d been wearing at church that morning.  He’d never asked me to do something like that before.  I found that suspiclious.  Very, very suspiclious.

We got to the special place Ben had in mind, and my fright grew.  Was this the night?  Was Ben going to ask me?

We sat on the top floor of a beautiful restaurant, the only ones there, in a curve-around booth that was on a turret over-looking the city below.  (I didn’t know what the turret was called until I overheard Ben’s dad accurately labeling it later.  It’s like a “bubble porch” enclosed by wall but with windows to look out.)

It was a very special seat, not like any other in the restaurant.  Then Ben told me he had to go to the bathroom, and I was almost sure.

Engagement Flowers 2The manager of the restaurant then dropped off an extravagantly romantic bouquet of flowers.

And then a card.  From Sniffy the brown bear.  (With Sniffy holding the card.)

Sniffy the brown bear has played a quirky part in our relationship from nearly the get-go.  I introduced Sniffy and Ben the first night we dated (we were with a group of others) and the two hit it off.  Sniffy’s been my teddy bear since I was about ten.

Sniffy Engagement 3The card Sniffy held was a Hallmark.

If you’ve read my other thoughts, you might already know how I feel about Hallmarks.  I’d warned Ben that, if he sent me a Hallmark, we’d have to marry.  😉

So the card was VERY SERIOUS.

From my lofty perch, I saw him (Ben, that is, not Sniffy) jog across the street to the parked car.  I ducked my head (because I wanted whatever he was doing to be a surprise).  I was really sure now.  My heart was pounding, pounding, pounding.  Would you believe that Sniffy was able to stay calm and not give the surprise away?

Then, the Italian music in the restaurant stopped playing.

It was really happening.

In came Ben, playing his guitar and singing a song written just for me.

So

It was a Hallmark.  He just had to marry me after that.  😉

Somewhere between having a breakdown of hysteria (if you knew how I normally handle stress, you would understand why), wanting to bawl profusely, and wondering why I couldn’t cry at all, I watched Ben singing.  Singing to me.

He got down on one knee and the shock was like thunder.  I lost most sense of reality.  The reality I did have was how unworthy I felt for this to be happening to me.

I don’t remember Ben reaching for my hand.  He was talking to me, wooing my heart, and I was sitting there like a bird that had just smacked into a window.  I remember knowing that he’d asked me–and realizing it was up to my reply.Ben Teej Hands Ring

I guess I had this idea that, somehow, I would think of something magnificently romantic or marvelously witty to say when the time of my real proposal (not one I’d daydreamed) came.  In reality, uh, the only word I could think of was yes.

But it was the right word, and it worked, and I guess he had taken my hand, because then there was a ring on my finger.  I honestly can’t say I know for sure when that happened, but there was the ring, and there was the proposal, and there was me, dazzled, overwhelmed, and overjoyed.

If Ben had been having dreams of me being brilliant and wonderful that night, I am sure I did not live up to what he had in mind.  But I got the feeling that he didn’t have any expectation other than for me to say yes.  And, he’s known me long enough to know how pathetic I can be under stress.

I am also a person normally filled with doubt.  But in that very special moment, God gave me a beautiful gift.  It was the gift of knowing.  Of not doubting.

And I was engaged.

Only watching, and with my yes, I was engaged.

I said yes.

I said yes.

The work, the time, the arrangement, the expense, the gifts, the timing, and the asking.  It was on Ben’s shoulders.  I didn’t have to carry any of it.

That doesn’t mean from time to time in our relationship (or a lot of lots of times) I didn’t try to carry some of the burden of it, but it never worked, and I knew God wanted me to wait on Ben.

Only the yes was up to me.

All the work, the time, the arrangement, the expense, the gifts, the timing and the asking: Ben (through the work of God).

And yet, the yes: left up to me.

Engagement Ring 1

.                         .                         .                         .                         .

The engagement I experienced is, in an infinitely tinier realm, like what Christ does for us on the cross.

We could not carry the appointment of when Christ would die.

We could not arrange for it.

We could not cover even the slightest portion of the expense He would have to pay with His life.

We could not give Him any gift to win His heart into such an endeavor (in fact, we were His enemies).

We could not push Him on the timing of giving His life.

And we could not ask Him to do so (nor did we even know what was required).

The cross–and all the work it took to get to the point of laying down His life–was totally laid on His shoulders.  We didn’t have to carry any of it at all.  In fact, we couldn’t.

Every drop of blood from His brow, every print His foot left on the street, every cry of anguish from His lips, every fulfillment of the Law He kept, He did for us.

Do you realize that as Christ fell with the cross, it was as though He was down on one knee, asking you and I to be in His Kingdom?  Do you know what He did to win the heart of His children?  Have you seen the work on the cross clearly before?

Nothing in Christianity makes sense if you do not first understand the proposal.  Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.

What would cause Him to do this?  Love.  Sheer love.

All we are left with, the only thing we must do to be saved, is our yes to Him.  We do not have to be perfect in our moment of asking.  We do not have to be free of all doubt.  We do not have to be free of the addictions that torment us, or of the past guilt that haunts us, or of the affliction of an ever-growing sin nature.  Christ, yes Christ, takes care of that.

All He waits on is your yes.

From Ben’s Pen:

. . as always, I am deeply honored when you compare any part of me or our relationship to Christ . . it was very interesting to see this from your point of view.

The env

The envelope for the card Ben gave me.

I planned the details, practiced the song, rehearsed the speech, but I didn’t really have an expectation of your reaction.  I’d imagined it many times, of course.  Would there be exuberant joy, or stunned silence?  Tears?  Friendly, in-love, laughter?  Once I even briefly feared there would be a look that said, “It’s about time.”  But expectations?  I expected a “Yes,” most likely either whispered or shouted, and a big hug.  Beyond that, I had no clue how you’d react, and I didn’t really want to have a clue.

As soon as I parked, I realized it was a bad spot.  When we got up there, I looked out and saw the car.  But I thought maybe you’d be looking around the room instead of out the window, and anyway there was nothing I could do about it.  Plus, although it would be sad to ruin the surprise, it wouldn’t ruin everything.

You can see Ben's blue car from the window.  :)

You can see Ben’s blue car from the window. 🙂

All day, it seemed odd to me how nervous I wasn’t.  I kept thinking, “I’m getting engaged today.  Shouldn’t I be all shy and fidgety?”  But I’m glad I wasn’t.  Then it was very hard not to react when Rachel (a church friend who went to street ministry with us) asked if we were going to get engaged.

Engagement Ben Teej 2Driving, walking into the place, taking you upstairs, still not a hint of nerves.  Going back to the car, handing Sniffy over, getting out my guitar, still not a hint of nerves.  Strumming the first few chords as I walked across the room, still not a hint of nerves.  It hit me when I started singing.  I’ve sang for you before, with and without music, and I knew you wouldn’t dump me for my poor singing.  I even wrote a line about it in the song.  But that’s when I was nervous.  But it was “I’m going to mess up the song, I’m going to forget the speech, I’m going to screw up and kill the mood.”  There wasn’t any “She’s going to reject me,” or even “we’re making a mistake.”  I had no doubt that this was the right path, or that you would say yes.  I only doubted my ability to follow the plan and not ruin the moment.

I did not forget the third verse of the song, which had given me so much trouble.  I got a little choked up when I saw you crying during the speech, but I did not stumble over the dialect, or forget the sections I usually forgot when practicing.  And then there was the “Yes.”  Not so much whispered or shouted, but said with love, conviction, and no hint of doubt.

Teej and Ben holding hands

We took this picture on our first solo date.

“I guess he had taken my hand, because then there was a ring on my finger.”  One part I’d been looking forward to was putting the ring on your finger.  After you said “Yes,” there was a ring on your finger.  I assumed you’d taken it and put it on, but I hadn’t noticed you doing it.  But I wasn’t disappointed.  When you took it off to look at the inscription, I made sure to take it back and put it on you that time. 🙂

Engagement Teej 4

Shortly afterwards, I tried to think of metaphors.  Jesus compares salvation to a marriage, but I was trying to think what part of that is like a proposal?  I couldn’t find anything.  But now I see why.  I was looking at the proposal from the groom’s point of view, but now I see salvation from the bride’s.

While your “yes” to me bears some small resemblance to our “yes” to Christ, my path to asking you bears very little resemblance to His.  I had to put forth some effort, but I didn’t suffer.  I had to get creative, but He knew His path all along.  I wondered how you would react, but He already knew.  I knew you’d say “yes,” but He knew most wouldn’t.

If I knew you’d say “no,” I wouldn’t have bothered to ask at all.  If I thought there was a very good chance you’d say “no,” I wouldn’t have been motivated to do nearly as much.  But I knew you’d say “yes,” and I wanted to make it special.

He knew most would say “no,” but still He went.  He knew even those who said “yes,” would turn their back on Him at times, but still He went.  He knew we didn’t deserve it at all, but still He went.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8, NIV

1 Corinthians 13:1, Part 2

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1, NIV)

Yesterday, I opened an envelope.  Little paper hearts spilled out over the card before I’d even opened the card.  They fell in my lap, and this lovely feeling of like a violin playing next to Prussian blue waters and swans swimming on the silky stained glass of the water’s surface came over me.  I wouldn’t trade that feeling for the so-called ‘enlightment’ all the meditation in the world could bring.  I wouldn’t trade that feeling for 10,000 years worth of knowledge.  Why?  Because I love love.

Love speaks to us something extraordinary.  Something that breaks out of the cycle of lies like a firefighter breaking through a wall to save an unconscious victim.  Love rescues us.  Love grabs us in its arms and carries us out of the charcoal and ash that loveless lives bring.

But have you ever wondered why we love love?

We love love because we are made in the image of God.  And the God whose image we are made in is a God of love.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness . .” (Genesis 1:26a, NIV)

God is love. (1 John 4:16b, NIV)

1 Corinthians 13:1, Part 1

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1, NIV)

I used to like theater much more than I do now.  Now when I go, I discover an emptiness that I didn’t notice before I belonged to Christ.

The last secular show I remember going to was a famous show.  I don’t want to go into the plot, but throughout the show there was a motif of hitting a small drum in an overwhelmingly monotonous, rhythmic pattern, and chanting Alice-in-Wonderland-type nonsense.  The theme was the circle of life–reincarnation, if you will–and how you have to let go of everything, and everyone who you love to find peace.

In the most moving scene, the main character is struggling with his mother’s death.  He has given his life to the cause of meditation, and he hadn’t seen his mother in years.  He dances with his mother in a dream, and her memory disturbs his meditation, throws him off track to knowing ‘nothing-and-everything’.  The dance is the most beautiful I have ever seen of the struggle with loss, but in the end, he releases her, and she vanishes from him.  He releases not just his mother, but the memories of his mother.  He parts with his love for his mother, and he goes back to the brain-numbing chant and the rhythmic drum.

Reflecting on a resounding gong and clanging cymbal, this play came back to mind.  The idea of giving up love for knowledge, wisdom, peace, meditation . . whatever we give it up for, the idea of giving up love.

All-but-one religions throughout history have been chanting that you need to give up love.  Love of some kind.  Love for your neighbor, who believes differently than you.  Or love for your child, to sacrifice on the altar.  Or love for the foreigner, who you mistrust.  Or love for romance, to live a celibate life.  Or love for the poor, so they can be inferior to you.  Or love for family, to join a cult.  Or love for truth, to accept the lies of false peace.

All world religions that have ever been, all but one, always ask you most of all to give up the greatest love of all: your love for God. Sacrifice God.  Lay Him on the altar and burn Him for your dreams, ambitions, power, lust, pride, ideals, relationships, etc.

But . .

God is love. (1 John 4:16b, NIV)

Without His love, our lives really are nothing more than the zombifying beat of a drum.  There really is nothing to look forward to, only an endless circle of the repeat of the endless circle of the repeat . .

But His love changes all that.

Check out: He Chose the Nails, Max Lucado (an audio of the unabridged book is available through iTunes)

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1, NIV)

(love)

I can’t remember when it was that I wrote this, but I’m reminded of why I came to faith when I read this over again and edited it.  It has been the love of Christ that has forever changed me.

People make fun of Christianity all the time as not evidence-based, but what they do not see is, when you have the Ultimate Evidence, you do not need any more evidence.  Even though I believe observational science points to God, even if a new scientific evidence was found to disprove the Bible, I wouldn’t believe it.  I wouldn’t believe it if all the current literature, all popular philosophy, all “developments” in psychology, and all calculations in math could be used as evidence to disprove the Bible.  Why?  Because God is more real to me than even my own senses or logic.

The best example I can give is love.  I know there is such a thing as love.  I love.  I have never “seen” love.  I have seen people draw hearts for love, but that is not really love.  I have seen what look like acts of love, but I can’t “see” love.  I have to believe love is taking place.  When a friend gives me a hug, there isn’t a sign that goes over our heads that says “love”.  And yet, I don’t need a sign.  In fact, it would be ridiculous to have a sign.  It would somehow cheapen love, because love is so deeply felt and intrinsically experienced in the soul, I don’t need “proof”.  Love is its own proof.

In this way, God is God’s own proof.  1 John 4:16b (NIV) tells us:

God is love.

On the Romance and the romance

0072009 was probably the second worst year of my life.

The first worst year was when I was 7.  I had felt as though there was nothing I could do to win God’s favor, and I would lay in bed in terror at night thinking about what could possibly please God.

Second to that was 2009.  My life fell apart in 2009.  Bad family news, terrifying panic attacks, a new problem sleeping due to anxiety, the meaninglessness of my life, and an acute awareness that I felt on the other side of a boundary line from God made this year worse for me even than the two years my father has ALS and we lost him.

For one thing, I had been on anti-depression medicine when my father had been ill and died, medicine that numbed me and basically made me feel like nothing in life mattered much at all.  I had for years found hope in Yankees baseball games, saving up for items for my Neopets, reality TV, the Twilight series, Lord of the Rings, Pokemon, whatever Mario game was coming out next, and so on.

But the year of 2009, all those things seemed to fade away.  Lose their flavor.  In a way I had never experienced before, they weren’t satisfying.  I’d always known they were never enough and I continually had to have more make-believe, more entertainment . . but I’d never before felt they didn’t satisfy.  I wasn’t on the strong anti-depressant I had been on, and my life looked more meaningless, wasteful, and unfixable than ever.

Bad family news hit only a few weeks after a personal blow that already had me reeling.  My alliance, Gus the white dog, was broken when Gus died suddenly in his sleep at 2-years-of-age.  Dogs had been a god for me for nearly all the years of my life.  I loved dogs more than I loved just about anything in the whole world, including, usually, people.  At that time, for a hermit-like girl filled with anxiety, I could hardly imagine what to do next.  I got a sunlamp that was supposed to help me feel less depressed, and when I woke up at 3 o’clock one morning sobbing for Gus, I sat in front of the light.  It helped a little, but it felt like everything else did that helped–just a trick to keep me from remembering how hopeless I really was.

Golfing

This photograph (summer of 2010) was taken about a year after I came to Christ. This was a fun picture to take because I knew my knight in shining armor might not come for me. I was, after all, far older than I’d ever imagined being without marriage (and without even a boyfriend). I was okay with it, because my Knight in Shining Armor had already come and saved me.

I believed God had taken Gus away from me because dogs had been gods to me.  Since childhood, dogs and video games had been my last stand in the world of sanity.  Earlier in 2009, I had stopped playing video games cold turkey (after several failed attempts) with the vague conviction that I had been wasting my time and probably not pleasing God.

I’d always thought I could function as long as I had a dog.  I’d always thought I could be a little bit happy as long as I had a dog.

Dogs and video games.  I had needed them so desperately for years and years.  Now I had neither.

The bright spot in my day was calling a friend on the way to work.  He was one of my last stops before insanity.  I knew he was praying for me and that he cared about the throttling waves of anxiety I was having.

A combustion of things began to happen in my life.  I could go through it all, but I’d really rather give you the simple tale: through a life of bondage to sin, I had sold myself to Satan’s auction, to be carted away by the highest bidder, and no puppy or Nintendo game could get me away from that.  There was a war for my soul, and every demon in Satan’s camp was bidding on me, but then God stepped up to bid.  He paid for me with the blood of His Son; He carried me off; and I fell in love.

To be truthful, I did not know at the time that this was what it was.  It was simply that for the first time in my life, I realized God loved me and I loved Him back.  It wasn’t until years later, when I fell in love with Ben (but I’m getting ahead of myself) that I realized, Oh!  That’s what happened to me with God!  I fell in love!

Teej Play

After a drama at church, 2011.

Sometimes very slowly, and sometimes very quickly, everything in my life was flipped upside-down.  Much of what I’d valued dimmed until it was mere garbage.  And much of what I’d scorned brightened until it was gems ablaze.

I walked out of make-believe–it still tries to grab me by the ankles and drag me back in now and again–and I gave up my obsession with dogs to sponsor children who live in high-poverty countries.  For the first time in my life, I knew what it was like to feel loved by God.

The next few years were kindled with change.  Sometimes, I’d backtrack.  Sometimes, it’d seem like I’d hit a dead end and there was nowhere to go but backwards.  Sometimes, I fell in holes.  But GOD loved me and always found me, wherever I was, and always gave me hope He still loved me, even after all my sin.  He kept reminding me that the blood of His Son had bought me.  So I kept following.

“Unsociable me” joined a drama team at the church that became my church home.  I made close new friends for the first time in a long time.  We had Bible study on Wednesday nights before rehearsals, and I discovered that my friends had insights about God I didn’t, shared struggles I had, listened to my testimony and what God was drawing my attention to in Scripture, and prayed for me.

Sunday school became another place to make friends.  As I’d never been very good at making friends my age, I ended up joining a class of mostly 50+ believers.  Many of them immediately–instantaneously, even–adopted me as an honoree grandchild and I thrived in their love.

Me and Petting Zoo

Makin’ friends at the Creation Museum in Cincinnati Kentucky. My mom and I went up for an Apologetics Conference with Answers in Genesis, 2011.

Later, on the second round of an invite, I agreed to try a Bible study that met on Thursday nights.  It was for only single, young women and I found that scary.  I had a self-designated stigma from people my own age, especially women.

That was a spring session.  That summer, I was on my knees in my house praying for the Bible study that was supposed to take place at my house in about 5 minutes.  I’d invited, oh, probably 50+ friends, and didn’t have a clue who would really come or how many.  I had one friend show up.  We talked, prayed, and almost at the end of the time, a second friend showed up.  We ended up as a pod of 4 in God’s garden that summer, and it was one of the sweetest times of my life.

That was July, I believe, and about one year later, I let the four women coming to the study at my house know that we wouldn’t be meeting on the 23.  I was going on a very short mission trip to Guatemala.  I was scared to be off by myself with a group of people who might chew me up and spit me out.  I still had fears about sociality.  But I wanted to meet Helen, an 8-year-old girl I sponsor in Guatemala.  So, I decided to go, but not make friends with anybody on the trip unless, of course, they liked me.

I was guarded, but I found people no longer perceived me the way I’d felt they did when I was a teenager.  I felt really frightened the night before we flew out of Miami, and very anxious our first night in Guatemala. What I didn’t know was that one of the women from my Bible study back home–all sneaky-like–was praying for me to find my husband on the trip.

Helen & Teej

Meeting my sponsored child in Guatemala on a Compassion International trip.  Helen shares my birthday.

It all started with us piling toys up on a table.  Our first night on the trip, my roommate Sarah and some friend she had named Ben sat at the table with me.  Afterwards, we were supposed to pool any supplies we had to give the children.  I brought my suitcase of goodies from Oriental Trading Company, the $1 jewelry store, and toys I had on stock.  I was piling them on the table when Sarah’s friend Ben started helping me.  Somebody said to him something like, “Wow, that’s a lot!” And he immediately said something like, “This is all Teej’s stuff.”

I was really surprised he gave me credit, I guess because of the way that he gave me credit.  He was humble–like he really wanted me to be acknowledged–and I found that startling.  I didn’t say anything about it, though.

teej ben arbor funny

One of our first dates together. It is very likely we were disagreeing about something.  Look at my sweet conniving expression and his ‘nuh-uh’.

Throughout the few days we were there, Sarah kept inviting Ben to sit with us.  I didn’t know why she kept on doing that.  One time I avoided going back to our hotel room because I knew they were out on the porch.  But, they saw me, and invited me down.  Ben seemed especially eager about it, for some crazy reason or other.

The day before last on the trip, someone astonished me by unabashedly trying to set me up with Ben.  You might remember that I came from the world of make-believe, where I controlled everything.  In video games, there really aren’t any variables you don’t know about once you’ve played the game a few times.  You can always hit the restart button or go back to where you last saved and start over.  Getting into a real, unrepeatable, unknown relationship was too scary for me.  I wasn’t ready.

Well.  I thought I wasn’t ready.  God apparently thought otherwise, because Ben and I wound up sitting together the last evening of the trip.  I began, very slightly, to fall in love.

Ben Teej roses

I didn’t remember why I had this sneaky expression on my face, but Ben did.  He reminded me that I was blocking his face with the roses as somebody was trying to get a picture of us.  😉

The next few weeks after the trip were a whirlwind–and not of romance.  Ben and I were tripping all over ourselves and each other, praying to God for help, and trying to figure out if this was a relationship He wanted.

Ben wasn’t easy for me to cope with.  He wasn’t like a puppy that didn’t talk back and fit comfortably in my arms and whose day was made by the sounds of a squeaky toy squeaking.  Ben was a lot more trouble than that!  For one thing, he didn’t always agree with me!  For another, he wanted to protect and lead me, not me lead and protect him!  And even more shocking, it was a lot harder to know what to do with him without a squeaky toy for props!

I began to see that real romance with a man is dynamic, like the real romance of falling in love with God.  It isn’t something that you test out in a game and practice over and over until you get it right.  Sometimes I’d say the wrong thing, and disappointed myself, and sometimes I’d say the really wrong thing, and really disappoint myself.  Sometimes Ben didn’t do what I wanted.  (Horrifying!)  Nothing really went like how I’d daydreamed it would and lots of times there was a whole lot more confusion and growing and terror and just plain hardness than I’d counted on.

Early on, time and time again I kept wanting to quit.  But I never did.  I prayed to God, begged Him to help me, and practiced trusting Him.  And as I started really, really falling in love, I realized that this felt very familiar . . it felt very much like when I met my God.

Teej Ben 8

I call him my earthly Boaz.  🙂

Now, I miss Ben like crazy.  He lives over 17 hours away from me.  I can’t wait to see him again.  I want to spend every moment of the rest of my life with him . . and it reminds me of how I feel about Him.  In fact, Ben’s loyalty, devotion, care, tenderness, compassion, mercy, and humility remind me of the traits God showed me of His nature when I fell in love with Him.

I am still almost in disbelief when I realize that the Love of my Life, Jesus Christ, introduced me to another child in His care to be the love of my life.  When I look back on the patheticness of my life, I am even more amazed that He has loved me so.

God works in different ways with different people.  There are Christians a million zillion trillion times more worthy than me who go through their life single.  God doesn’t always work in the same way.  I don’t know why.  But I do know that He loves us, and that the greatest Romance of our lives is always available to us.  It’s Him.  Even if Ben were to drop me like yesterday’s news, the Romance of my life would still be here.

I am still shocked at times that he loves me.  And I will be shocked for eternity that He loves me.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8, NIV)

Published in: on April 6, 2013 at 4:28 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,

The jeweled Path

This past week has been like all weeks since my new life in Christ.  When I look back on the Path I’ve walked, the debris of my sin litters what was, only 7 days before, a clean street.

Here and there, I see the glimmers of a jewel, sometimes plainly seen on the path, sometimes hidden almost entirely underneath my sin.  I see the moments where God got ahold of my heart, where I prayed out of love, where I sought His heart, where I did something that imitated my Savior and my God.  But when I look at my basket of righteousness to see what I have collected from those moments, I see only the wicker at the bottom.

Empty.

Empty!

On the path behind, I see not only the gemstones I missed, but even more so the trash I left behind.  I think about how, in honesty, I could not reconcile and set everything right I trashed even this past seven days, much less for the some 8,000 days I have been an influencer in the world, a journeyer responsible for what I carry and what I leave behind.

This week, as I look back over the street, I see the very tip of a large gemstone just visible on the path I walked, but–before my heart can soar in this moment of discovering the gem or faint in grief that I didn’t spend time uncovering it–I see the mounds of trash piled high beside that stone, desecrating the goodness God was showing me.

It’s especially wounding to realize that God was working with me on something, that I saw it, that I even began to experience in it . . and then that other trash of my life spilled over and I sinned so greatly I obscured even the sweetest moment of the week.

Lately, I have had an obsession with the year 30.  I will be 30 August 28, 2013.  I dream that, when I turn 30, I will hold my life all together, that there will be only a few sprinkles of trash here and there, and that the path will be paved with breathtaking gemstones, one after the other, turned over by God as He reveals His work to my closely following heart.

I’ve thought, I’ve hoped I will begin following Jesus nearly perfectly.  Jesus started His public ministry at 30, and–though I know the first 29 years of my life do not mirror Jesus’ whatsoever save for the dazzling intervention of His grace–I hope that the rest of the years of my life will be a symphony of imitating my Redeemer, without His help.  I want to show Him that I love Him, that I can live out what He’s taught me  That I, in some tiny way, understand what He’s done for me.

But do I really believe this will happen?  Do I think that, in a few short months, simply because I hear the song of another birthday, my life will be filled with holiness?

That when I look back as an old woman (should I by God’s grace live so long!) I will see from the year 30 onward, the Path behind me jeweled and radiant with gemstones God has overturned for my pure heart to see, gemstones I have no longer missed because I am no longer too busy throwing the trash of my chaos, my selfishness, and my foolishness down the glory street, gemstones I finally placed in my basket to bring to Him at the moment my soul meets eternity?

Do I really think I will gather sapphires of peace, mali garnets of integrity, almandine garnets of charity, amazonites of purpose, moonstones of reflection, ambers of passion, amethysts of hope, morganites of gentleness, ammolites of creativity, andalusites of generosity, aventurines of adventure, beryls of a noble heart, peridots of faith, carnelians of trust, rhodolite garnets of beauty, charorites of compassion, rubies of wisdom, chrysoprases of worship, citrines of holiness, seraphinites of purity, danburites of determination, smoky quartz of persistence, diamonds of truth, spessarite garnets of fear of the Lord, emeralds of thoughtfulness, fire agates of resolution, sphalerites of zeal, emeralds of patience, spodumenes of exalting Christ, star diopsides of mystery, gaspeites of wonder, ametrines of mercy, agate geodes of victory, star garnets of announcing the Kingdom of Christ, star diopsides of proclaiming Christ as the only resolution for sin, goshenites of following Him, star sunshines of devotion, hackmanites of surrender, tanzanites of battling on God’s side, moss opals of growth, obsidians of strength, axinites of warmth, cassiterites of understanding, hiddenites of listening to the whispers of God, imperial topazes of His atonement for me, topazes of the war against sin, jaspers of the hidden plan of God, tiger’s eyes of refusing defeat, kunzites of the romance of God for His people, turquoises of astonishment for His grace, kyanites of a clear conscience, lapis lazulis of a servant’s heart, zircons of strength for the battles ahead, tourmalines of endurance, sunstones of redemption, pyrope garnets of forgiveness, and rubellite tourmalines of His love . . simply because I have gotten a year older?

Even now, I know it won’t be so.  I already imagine the litter of my sin in the future.  Even the most precious moments of God in my life are piled over high with the smelly filth of unimaginable sins I have committed.

How do I go on?  How do I keep hoping I will live a perfect life?  How do I keep from missing the gemstones in my path like a child staring at her shoes during an Easter egg hunt?  How do I have any assurance I will live a holy life from this day forward?  How do I rely on myself when, to date, the basket of my self-righteousness is empty?  I am happy simply to look back and see gems that have not been totally buried in my trash; I never once have been able to touch one with my fingertips and place it in my basket.  And so my basket is hauntingly empty; the path of holiness is hauntingly fearful; I wonder how I can, with any sort of integrity, keep going down the path of Christianity and not resign in shame?

And then, suddenly, instantly, a hand slips into mind.  I recognize the scar in the middle of the palm; I look up and see a head that has borne the crown of thorns I deserve as my reward for how I have journeyed on this path.

My eyes fill with tears, because I look on His majesty and see I have nothing to give Him.  I am like a servant walking in a kingdom to find that it is the king’s birthday and I have no present.  This is far more than a birthday; this is Resurrection Day–and what do I have to give Him?

I look down at my empty basket and the shame of how I’ve walked the Path brings me to my knees.  I cover my face in my hands and hope He does not see me, that He walks on by to receive jewels from others who have earned them for Him.

He still holds my hand, and He moves my hand in His to reach for something I cannot see with my head bent down.  He withdraws His hand from my trembling one, and my hand rests on the hard warmth of the inside of a basket filled with jewels, loaded down so that not another can fit.

I raise my hand, stand in surprise, look in the basket held out before me.  Inside is everything I have ever tried to give Jesus; everything jewel God has ever shown me on the path that I either missed or failed to pick up; and ones I have never seen or imagined even existed that await on my future path–I see clearly that I will fail to pick up them, too.

The jewels of righteousness are too beautiful for my unholy eyes, and I jerk my gaze away.  I try to pull my hand from His basket, but He grasps my wrist and lays my hand back over the gemstones.

“I cannot . .” I weep.  “I cannot take your gemstones.  You’ve worked so hard for them.  It’s not fair!  I’m the one who should be giving to you!”

I should have collected jewels to give to Him! He is the one who carried me from the path of destruction!  I owe Him everything!  should be the one bringing the gifts!

He is the One who undug my grave while nails were in His palms.  He is the One who kissed my dead heart to life while He was kissed with my betrayal of HimHe is the One who lifted me out of the grave while the consequences of my actions shredded His skin. He is the One who crowned my head with life while He wore the crown of my curse.  He is the one who carried me on His back while I lifted a cross to His.

I was His cross.

As He tasted the vinegar of my death, He cupped His hands full of the Living Water to quench my thirst.  As He took His last breath, He breathed into me my first breath.  And when He woke from the tomb, it was me who He carried out with Him.

How can I possibly take His jewels?

I start to refuse.  I start to flee, but He holds my hand once more.  I hear a tearing, like a Great Curtain ripping a path from earth to Heaven, and I see in front of the path a still stone cave.

The world is utterly quiet.  I look at the stone beside the mouth of the cave.  It would have been impossible for me to move; but Someone has already moved it.  I know what this place is; I wonder if it is really okay to go inside.

But He leads me in.  I look around in what would have been the darkness of the place, but He is standing beside me.

I see the inside is not the small space of a tomb, but the infinite trove of a sea of jewels.  As far as I can look, I can see gemstones flooding the cavern.  My eyes would go blind from looking at them, were it not that He shields me with His hand.  I cannot in my falleness withstand seeing the infinite holiness of this vault.  He leads me out and I stumble in a daze.

Once again, He lays my hand on His basket.  I look again, and I see the gemstones of everything I have ever wanted to give Him, all the jewels I have seen along the way, and many more I missed seeing altogether, and even more that have not yet been unturned on the Path ahead.

And now I see.

My life is fulfilled in Christ.

It is He who holds everything together.

If you know Him, you do not go through life with an empty basket, but a full one.

My life is not to be spent trying to collect gemstones.

He has already picked them up for me.

My life is to be spent marveling Him, holding His jewels in my basket, sharing His jewels with the jewel-less world.

I come to the Jesus of Easter, and I throw my empty basket of self-righteousness aside.  It tumbles away somewhere in the wastelands adjacent to the Path.  I hold out my hands and Jesus gives me a gemstone to hold.

And then we keep walking.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 2:21, NIV)

_______________________________________

Gemstone ideas and pictures found at http://www.gemselect.com/other-info/gemstone-list.php