Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Now This is the Refining Process

This is a strange season in my life: one of deep and painful transformation. Sorry to use the exhausted butterfly metaphor, but right now, I am that vulnerable little bug trying to wriggle its way out of uncomfortable confines. Foundational, false beliefs. Old hurts. I was warned that it's no fun; now, you who warned me can say, "I told you so!" :)

I don't purport that this stage--which I believe all Christians undergo--always corresponds to marriage. For me, though, marriage has brought about several changes that have dredged up issues, ones I had put on the shelf to collect dust and forget.

Oddly enough, Chris's love for me has made me realize how unworthy of love and incapable of being loved I feel--not only by him, but by God. I feel despicable most of the time, and I do mean to use that strong of a word. You and I could pick apart my psyche all day, analyzing why I carry such a deep-rooted lie, but the bottom line is I need to know anew the implications of the gospel. Almost in anger, I'm going to throw off the words "should," "have to," "required to," and just say I need to know who God is and how He has loved and is loving me.

I am repelled by those words because I've been trying so hard for so long to earn love by doing things. I fail miserably and, consequently, feel miserable. I'm at the end of myself. I'm so sick and tired of feeling enslaved to the purported "obligations" of the Christian life, while God simply calls me to walk in the freedom of knowing Him and Christ and the power of His resurrection. Yes, I can't just stop working, since faith without works is dead. Trust me, I know, as I've used this as an excuse to be works-oriented for the last year and a half. I've spent that time viewing God as a reckoner, just waiting for me to make a mistake so He could shake His head at and punish me.

No more! God is love. I want to know it, taste it, live it! I may sound like a bad inspirational speaker right now, but truly, I want to know God in every fiber of my being. He's the only thing I can hope in. That's a pretty big deal.

If you think of Chris and me, please pray for us, as God files off some of my rough edges hopefully once and for all.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Death of Pride

I remember sitting in the car with Chris one year ago, listening to our Relient K song, "The Best Thing," bobbing my head with a small, satisfied smile and thinking, "Wow, we are doing great as a couple. We have great communication. We keep up the romance. We seek God together. Oh, yeah!" And, as a sort-of post script, "Thank you, God."

After a squabble-filled day last week, a leader from our church approached me and said, "I'm praying for you and Chris, every day. You two are very precious to me." Then it hit me.

Now that the engagement is done, the wedding dress hung and the honeymoon period over, I see: We have been upheld by God's grace alone, delivered through the prayers of the godly.

There have been countless friends and family lifting up our dating relationship and marriage on a daily basis. We thank you. From day one, God carried us. Only He can--and continues to--make what little love two very imperfect people have into something very good.

Oswald Chambers wrote, "I have never met the man I could despair of after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God."

If not for Him, where would we be? Praise God on High, again and again!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Contemplations of a Young Wife, Fourth Part

Before I begin, my favorite quote of the week from the professor happily featured in an earlier blog post: "I hope I don't puncture anyone's faith with this." Yeah right, professor. Yeah right.

So, even though being married and in school does--as many direly warned me--eliminate some of "the college experience," I certainly had my fair share of it living in the dorms for two years.

For example, I got to experience the glorious reign of baby bows! Yes, you heard me correctly. If you spent but one day on the campus of the University of Oklahoma last fall, you must have seen hundreds of primped and polished young women wearing great shoes, sharply-cut jeans, brightly-colored Greek shirts...and baby bows. So rampant were they that our floor activity one month was creating these little wonders with ribbon and hot glue.

Reader, I had no clue how to make a baby bow, but I truly wanted one. Instead of asking for an example or demonstration of how to construct said bow, I decided to take a stab at it alone. Basically, I took a piece of ribbon, tied it in a few random places, balled up the rest and attempted to glue the ball somewhere beneath the clip so no one would be able to tell it was not the work of a sorority craftsmistress. Needless to say, I never wore my baby bow.

And now, the segue.

So it is with learning how to be married--how to be a godly wife. How will we know how to practice godliness with our spouse--from hospitality to selflessness to patience--unless we have an example, a demonstration? Yes, we know what the end product looks like, but what's underneath? Surely it's not a balled mess of ribbon just waiting to come apart. There is a foundation, and a process.

I was confused about married life yesterday (nothing new) and spoke with our mentor couple. They elucidated so much, simply by asking the right questions, counseling me based on their past experiences and pointing me to Christ with their Christ-like example. I walked away inexpressibly grateful for the physical manifestation of the Lord in the Church body.

This principle extends beyond marriage. Whether you're single, dating,engaged, married, a hermit, examples are essential. We don't automatically know things, as nice as that would be, so God has given us resources in people to aid and encourage us. Let us take hold of that and let God use us in the same way with others.

Blessed be...the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Beating Stress by Breaking Windows

Here it is, finally: the slightly-exaggerated account of the havoc I wreaked at Tan & Tone America last June!


I write this for your benefit, since your parents have probably told you what they always told me, and haven’t told you what they never told me:

My parents always told me, “Don’t try to handle everything yourself; it’ll only make you tired and emotional!”

My parents never told me, “Don’t drive through the front of a tanning salon when you’re tired and emotional!”

I’d like to blame their lack of forthrightness for the hundreds of shattered, bluish shards of glass that surrounded my car, and the theatrical obliteration of three glass panels that were once the windows of Tan & Tone America.

I suppose I could blame my parents for several other key things; for instance, that they never told me that planning an extravagant wedding makes a woman want to rip her hair out, or that it’s very unproductive for a woman to lie awake with eyes glued to the ceiling until 4 a.m., pondering the course of her life, or that a woman can have this many things on her mind at once, or that she shouldn’t try to juggle all of them by herself. I was nine months engaged to the most amazing man on the planet; ironically, I was still trying to go it alone.

That morning, my mind couldn’t seem to fixate on anything except my aloneness, and how completely and utterly unprepared I felt to become a wife—a wife!—at twenty years old. I have a bad habit of trying to be perfect in a particular skill or trait before I ever encounter the circumstance where I’ll need it. I was frustrated that I could not perfect myself into the wife every man dreams of that morning, so I decided to go perfect baking myself at the tanning salon, instead.

I hardly knew which gear I put the car into when I climbed in and turned the key. The sun was not bright white enough yet to warm the air, which teased me with early chill. “What time is it?” I asked myself, wonderingly. I should have been wondering what in the name of Alfred Angelo I was doing going to Tan & Tone America half-dressed in a sports bra, t-shirt and shorts, makeup running from the day before, not even aware what hour it was I was going to stumble in like a haggard urchin. “Please, sir, may I ‘ave some ‘ore…tanning lotion?”

So there I was, my own worst nightmare, at large on the road. My eyes still glazed over from sporadic bouts of sleep, my mind fuzzy and unfocused on reality, my emotions spilling over with repressed stress, I reached Tan & Tone America and readied myself to park in my regular spot, a space over from the door in front of the floor-to-ceiling storefront windows.

My brain picked this moment to rebel against the injustice I had done it, and sent its verdict to my foot, which also found me very guilty. My foot hit the accelerator instead of the brake—hard. Before I knew what was happening, I was flying wildly over the curb, crashing violently into metal bars and glass, which was raining on all sides of me. The world looked like a slow-motion scene from The Matrix before I came to a stop, the focus of three dumbfounded pairs of eyes.

Thirty minutes later, trying to respond to the good-natured jests of the ladies at Tan & Tone America, nestling in the comforting arms of my fiancé, I decided it was time for me to stop trying to perform when I had nothing left; to not try to handle everything myself. I decided it was time to just let someone take care of and love me.

Learn from my mistake, dear reader: when life becomes too overwhelming and you just need to crash, crash into the arms of someone who loves you, not into the front of your local tanning salon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Don't Keep the Potatoes

I've been elated with answers to prayer,
I've been baffled by answers to prayer,
but I've never, never been scarred for life by a swift answer to prayer such as I received yesterday, when I came upon the rotten potatoes.

Lately, I've found it difficult to sense God with me. Senses and emotions are extremely deceptive, and I constantly struggle to remember that feelings are not the equivalent of reality. However, God once again proved His reality; this time, through my sense of smell.

It started a few weeks ago with a very foul smell in the kitchen. Chris and I couldn't stand it, but we also couldn't, after scouring the cabinets, divine the source. We wrinkled our noses and shrugged our shoulders and moved on.

The story continues this past Tuesday, when we came upon a disturbing creepy-crawly in the sink, for which I will spare you the description. Let's just say it wasn't your normal insect house-pest. Chris and I were thoroughly grossed out. In retrospect, I laugh at us; as we laid down that night, I whispered, shakenly, "I wish we knew where that came from!" I could hear Chris's smile in the dark as he repeated the advice I'd given him earlier, "Just don't think about it, love."

But I did think about it, and, despite not feeling God, I prayed that He would help me find out the creature's origin.

The next day, my mentor canceled our lunch meeting (providentially; you'll see why), so I decided to scrounge for food at home. I decided to make a nice baked potato in the microwave, using the potatoes I had been storing in a "cool, dry place" for over a month. I pulled the bag from the cabinet.

Then, I promptly discovered the source of both the smell and the creepy-crawly in one stomach-turning moment. Apparently, a rotting potato makes an excellent home for them. I made a sickened, suppressed moan deep in my throat, all the fear and disgust of years rising to the surface in a drawn-out note of unmitigated internal meltdown...

So, dear reader, my prayer was heard, and I am reminded of God's concern with even the smallest details of our lives. In addition, I am now very aware of how not to store potatoes.

Don't make my mistakes, dear reader. ;) Until next time.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Contemplations of Young Wife, Third Part

Apparently, I thought all my misconceptions about and bitterness against men would go away when I found the exceptional man who would be my husband. However, I've discovered that just because I don't apply my stereotypes to Chris doesn't mean I don't still own them.

Yesterday I broke down in a hate-filled fit about how angry guys make me. The spate came out of left field, believe me; I think it scared Chris about as much as it did myself. I felt justified in ranting, at the moment. A few minutes of a clear head and a clear-headed spouse, though, reminded me of an important principle: Though I have been burnt by men in the past, I am not excused from bringing both my hurt and my poor attitude concerning them before a gracious heavenly Father.

Unforgiveness is not exactly a debatable sin (see Matthew 6:14-15), and unforgiveness is my problem, here. I distill the situation, of course; there's much that happened in the whole process involving the wrongs of other people, but unforgiveness is something that I can, and must, personally face. It's cancerous; it causes me to take personal offenses and project them onto the entirety of the opposite sex. For example:

-All guys care about is sex.
-All men are pigs.
-Men can't be trusted.

Horrible! I know hordes of godly young (and old) men who are so respectable as to be, well, an overwhelmingly refreshing refutation to all of the above (Any unmarried ladies reading this, I promise you, they're out there in abundance. Don't give up, don't lower your standards and keep trusting God's sovereignty and love!).

God, grant me both the desire and ability to forgive, and thank you, more than I can ever fully express, for blessing me with a man who is anything but deserving of contempt. Catch me in bad patterns of thinking about men. Teach me how to love all as you do.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Contemplations of a Young Wife, Second Part

Tears sting.

They hurt a whole lot more now that I know that they hurt someone else; namely, my sweet and adoring husband, who could throw two tons of bricks at me and still not get me to fall out of passionate love with him, much less try to forget him.

I know it comes with the territory, but I hate--hate--the fact that whatever I do and whatever I feel now affects Chris. He hurts with me, even when I suffer from inexplicable and once-personal feelings such as depression and self-deprecation (though, I suppose the latter doesn't count as a feeling). When he sees me crying, I can in turn see his empathy make the strong lines of his jaw and brow go rigid, and his eyes fall into some deep place of uncertainty; uncertainty of the right things to say, the right things to do...

His tears are simultaneously one of the most beautiful and the most unbearable things I know. Ah, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he treasures me, then.

And all I want to do, in between my tears, is tell him that I love him desperately, and just want him to be. I mean, in the end, I just want him to be happy. In my darkest moments, I ask, "Why me? Why would you choose me of any other woman you knew, of anyone you could have loved? Why me?" When I hurt you, my husband, it kills me, and I almost wish you away--away from me.

But, there's something else I know beyond the shadow of a doubt: That he and I were meant for one another, a couple sanctioned by and joined before God, created to be a team, and not islands forever incomplete. I think it would be presumptuous (just a bit, you think?) to tell God he made a mistake in uniting Chris and Jaimie Krycho.

Tears sting, but tears--even shared ones--are part of the grand process called life, and the equally grand one called marriage.

Review - Ted Dekker's Sinner

Or, Why I Won't Forgive Sinner

Like a lazy Sunday afternoon is to a long work week, so picking up a popcorn novel is to trudging through dense, intellectual books. The reader wants something succinct, fresh and satisfying to clear the brain. It was with this intent that I bought Ted Dekker’s Sinner, published one year ago this month.

The prolific Dekker is renowned among Christian authors for his engaging, sometimes alarming fiction plots that keep readers on the edge of their seats, as well as for his wide fan base. He has written several best-selling series and has seen two of his thrillers (Thr3e in 2006 and House in 2008) made into films.

Sinner completes Dekker’s three-part Paradise series, in which each book connects to the others but can stand alone. It seems to be relatively unfamiliar to the reading public, based on conversations I’ve had with a few self-proclaimed Dekker fans. That surprised me. I was equally surprised by the fact that Barnes and Noble oh-so-temptingly marked down the book to $5.95. Attractive hardcover, popular fiction author...and dramatic price drop. Was no one reading Sinner?

The premise—a nation-shaping battle between good and evil involving four characters imbued with special powers—lured me. I was interested in seeing how Dekker fused modern Christian concerns with his sensational storytelling. I paid the six bucks and settled down for a relatively quick read.

I was pleased at how naturally Sinner establishes its world and characters. Granted, the book is set in modern America, so the modern American reader requires no orientation in culture beyond learning of the socio-political changes that comprise the source of conflict. Dekker does a credible job of taking current evangelical fears about the dangers of pluralism and turning them into a frightening reality: the suppression and indictment of free speech in the name of “tolerance.”

In addition, even though I haven’t read the preceding books, Showdown and Saint, I had no problem getting to know the basic personality and background of protagonists Billy Rediger and Darcy Lange. I appreciate recapping skills in an author.

The stand-alone nature of the book posed a significant problem, however, and one that I can’t seem to get over. I found the characters fairly insipid. It’s not that Dekker didn’t give them distinct and memorable personality traits, but I felt as if the traits had been declared rather than organically revealed (particularly those of the main female character, Darcy). This held true at both introductions and turning points—even when a person underwent rapid change, it was so rapid and complete as to be unbelievable. There was little overall character development, which made the people seem two-dimensional, and left me feeling disconnected from the story.

As a believer in God and, consequently, in good and evil, I had hoped to be not only connected with, but inspired by, Sinner. I admit that the extremely black-and-white (in this case, white) nature of the hero, Johnny Drake, made me ponder how seriously I take my own faith and how much dignity and safety I’d be willing to sacrifice for it. This contemplation lasted a few days, for which I was grateful.

However, I most enjoy books that make their point without being preachy, and Sinner is not one of them. Dekker could have told a solid, God-centered story without putting so much emphasis on sending a big message. The overly-emotional appeal sapped my enjoyment of the book, as I felt tugged between serious mode and, well, popcorn novel mode.

Upon finishing the book, I found that my “lazy Sunday afternoon” had become one of those afternoons of lofty plans that, at the end of the day, never happened.

Dekker has done much better; I suggest putting Sinner aside and going for one of his books that has safely stayed the same price.


This review was first published at blogcritics!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Look Up!

One of my husband's and my dearest friends, PJ King, said that longing is good for the soul. I was in the mood to play Socrates and commented that I needed clarification between longing and pining, for the latter is negative.

The dictionary makes no distinction between the two, he said, and reasoned that longing reminds us of Heaven, that the grave is not our end, earth as we know it is not in its ultimate form, and though we know God now, we will know Him fully when we see Him in His glory in Heaven (once again, I refer to 1 Corinthians 13:12).

Some days, I find myself longing like this: Staring off into the void, wishing for an indescribable something that I know has been and will be again. This yearning--this relentless itch--is the reality behind our very meaningful childhood dreams of knights and princesses and kingdoms. It's the truth that draws us, inexplicably, to hope and endurance when wretched despair chokes out the light.

We long for more in life because this life is not our final destination. We dream of Heaven because we were made to dwell with God.

Keep longing.