Tuesday, September 27, 2011

{ A Door Ajar }

I slip into a chair  mid-row, alone, breathless from a morning of nonstop running. Mike is busy "putting out fires," as volunteer leads frequently must; he'll try to catch the next service. I curl fingers around paper cup. Coffee's getting cold.

Pastor Mark is talking about Jesus' close friends, Peter and Judas. They both betrayed Him. He loved them anyway. He opened His heart to Peter, Peter who denied he know Jesus in His darkest hour, Peter who left Him, Peter who abandoned and betrayed Him at His weakest. Jesus still gave His trust to Peter, He still extended vulnerability to Peter, even after Peter disowned Him. Even after so much broken trust, He was vulnerable with Peter. He entrusted to Peter the shepherding of His church.

Jesus didn't let past betrayal and abandonment define His relationships.

Heart heaves in chest.

This, this ugly pain, I know it well. I never thought I'd be one scarred by broken relationships. Yet I am. Yesterday in Redemption Group I cried in front of perfect strangers, that embarrassing sob-cry that catches in the throat and makes words come out askew, talking about how this fear that chokes my life. This fear of being vulnerable. This desperate attempt to be invulnerable and free of needs, because to need--to be imperfect--is to open yourself to assistance from others, others who may hurt you where you are most vulnerable.

Jesus doesn't just know. He faces the choice to be vulnerable and does Yes. He opens His heart to weak and flawed and sin-drenched people. Every time, He says Yes.

I finger rim of cup. I don't usually say Yes. And yet I loathe the prison of isolation and false perfection that No builds, the strangling hold that sucks away breath and leaves me gasping alone.

Two days later, our pastor's wife shares a link to Ann Voskamp's words here, and I hear Him again, wooing me soft toward the freedom of Yes. Three days, three nudges, three invitations to dwell with Him in a place of trust.

Part of that is here. Even this, the writing and selecting "publish post," it is hard for she who wants to present a flawless and competent facade of self-sufficiency. I wrestle to reveal my true self, and it's easier to do so through the impersonal computer screen that face-to-face with people whose reactions I cannot control.

I am walking down a road I've long avoided. I say this not to be prideful, but to humbly acknowledge the fears and attempts to control that have shaped me and to say No more! I can begin here. I can begin to crack open the doors of my heart and say, Welcome, friend. You are welcome here, in my little patch of cyberspace. I am so glad you are here. Thank you for walking with me. My steps are wobbly, and I'm not sure where this road will take us, but welcome.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

{ Redemption }

What if God's picture of redemption for my life doesn't look like my picture of redemption?

I am wrestling with the idea that this isn't actually a question, it's a statement: God's picture of redemption for my life does not look like my picture.

In my picture of the redeemed life God has prepared for me, there is enough money with manageable working hours. I won't have to work when we have kids. Serving at church and in the community doesn't actually require us to sacrifice time or energy I'd rather spend elsewhere. We're healthy and pain-free, not stressed, sort of skipping through sun-filled days, weeks, and years.

I can tell you right now, folks, that is not what reality looks like!!

This quarter, Mike and I are blessed and privileged to be attending Redemption Group through our church {more info here}. As the website describes, "a Redemption Group™ is an intense small group that digs deep into difficult and seldom-discussed areas of life, such as abuse, addiction, and trials of all sorts....Far beyond Bible study, Redemption Groups are about life study—your life connecting with Jesus’ life." This weekend was the "intensive," ten hours of intro sessions. Already I see Jesus moving so powerfully and lovingly in my heart and the hearts of other participants. At the end of the day, Mike asked me if I cried. My response: "I cried every time someone talked, including myself!" While I'm excited for the transformation I expect the Lord to work in my heart, I'm also scared of the process--replacing lies with the truth isn't a painless process, and we have an enemy who would dearly love to see me remain enslaved to habitual sin.

Right now, part of God's picture of redemption for Mike and I involves showing up here at 6:30am on Sunday morning

{our entire church setup is in that white trailer!!}

and helping transform this gymnasium into a place where about 400 people at a time can gather to worship Jesus.
My part in all this is not strictly necessary, but I think it's very much appreciated: I'm one of the "caffeine angels" who makes coffee for everyone. It's amazing how exhausting it can be to make coffee for hours. You'd think it's a piece of cake. I have blisters on my feet to prove it isn't...and the hubs and I have actually started taking naps when we get home on Sunday afternoons!

It is truly amazing to see God's hand in this church plant. We were hoping for 500 people the first Sunday {there are two services}, and a whopping 787 people showed up! Praise the Lord!

Note: All photos in this post taken from here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

{ Snapshots }

: : Moments I don't want to forget, from late August/early September 2011 : :

: : Labor Day BBQ with this sweet friend and her dear little man-child : :

Isn't he the most impish little fellow you've ever seen?

: : Community group girls' night, complete with cheese AND chocolate fondue {fondid? fondone? fondelicious!} : :

Krissy making cheese fondue

Someone borrowed my camera and used it against me...

I don't remember how we got on the topic of using pantyhose as a mask/disguise, but Joanna and Kalie took it one step further by creating a conjoined pantyhose mask. Props to you ladies!

: : Our table, set for a dinner party with friends : :

: : Pottery Barn lookalike lamp: Base from Target, lampshade from Tuesday Morning, recovered with burlap and grosgrain ribbon. I love it. : :

: : Lavendar on the mantle : :

: : My other new lamp, a sale find at Cost Plus World Market : :

Isn't the little owl dear?

I know better than to say things like, "I promise I'll post again soon!"

Seems like every time I say that, weeks and weeks go by before I log into blogger.

There are lots of big changes--some for sure, some just thinking about--at our fingertips. Last Sunday we helped launch a new church. It was the first of many Sundays where we'll begin setup at 6:30am and finish at 2:00pm. Tonight Mr. Husband and I are starting an intense sort of Bible study/recovery group that runs for eight weeks. Pray for our hearts...that we'll be open to Jesus and that He will move us and change us in big ways during this time.

All this to say, don't be surprised if posting is a little less than regular. There's a whole lot of life going on right now, and it's cutting into computer time! Which, I suppose, isn't a bad thing at all.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

{ Laughter }

He's sitting kitty-corner to me at the dining room table, shaking with laughter so hard it's silent, face contorted and red with hysteria, forgotten sandwich still in his hand.

I'm gasping for breath, trying over and over to get the next word out between gales of laughter, not sure which is funnier--the blog post I'm reading out loud or Mike's reaction to it.

It hits me suddenly, and my stomach lurches with the realization and the sinking feeling:
When did we stop laughing?

I hadn't even noticed before. But this--me and Mike, sitting down, fooling around, sharing a funny website in the middle of a jam-packed Saturday--I don't remember the last time that happened. We're too busy for things like this. We have schedules and meetings and lots of commitments taking up the always-too-short days, and we're responsible and trustworthy and hardworking and we do what needs to be done and fall in bed exhausted late at night, only to do it all over again the next day. But we don't do this. We don't pause between the sixty-two Very Important Things slated for the day, take 15 minutes to relax together between the crush of responsibilities and activities and laugh ourselves silly over a new comedian I found. We just don't.

Mike and I, we both have a tendency to let the "cares of the world" choke us. Myself much more than Mike; he's a champion of "we are going to stop the Very Important Things we are doing and have date night." But me? I didn't even realize how serious, how goal-oriented, how lifeless my approach to life has become 'til I shared a long round of tummyache-inducing laughter with my husband. I said a little prayer of repentance in my head and, once we had sufficiently recovered our breath, I launched into another blog post--not just repentance with words, but repentance with deeds!

 Later that night over dinner, Deborah and I marvel as we watch our husbands render themselves helpless with laughter over and over again. They were roommates before we got married, Kevin and Deborah's wedding just three weeks after ours. Deborah and I grin at their joy and I shake my head: "I'd forgotten how good these two are for each other. We need to get together more often!"

Laughter, you are welcome in our home. Surprise us. Entice us. Don't let us shut you out.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

{ These Days }

I don't want to forget these days.

I don't want to forget that getting up an hour earlier than usual--even though I'm not going to bed earlier--is totally worth it when I spend that hour reading the Word.

I don't want to forget that even when I don't feel like I "learned" much, when there wasn't a single verse to highlight, when it seems it was just groggy Nikki reading the Bible purely for the sake of reading the Bible, His Word never returns empty but always accomplishes the purposes God desires {Isaiah 55:11}. That extra hour in bed is always worth sacrificing for time with Jesus.

I don't want to forget the golden-edged sunlight of warm September days, balmy breezes in eveningtime and a hint of autumn in the air.

I don't want to forget how exciting it is to drink the first pumpkin spice latte of the season.

I don't want to forget how a bunch of lavender on the mantle scents our entire home.

I don't want to forget an amazing send-off from our home church: Everyone who is part of the new church plant came to the front of the auditorium, and the elders prayed for us and for the new church we're starting next Sunday.

if you know where to look, you can see half of me and Mike!

I don't want to forget how much we laugh at work--even in the midst of training a new employee.

I don't want to forget how sweet it is when I trust Mike and just rest in his leadership.

I don't want to forget the Holy Spirit's presence at our community group communion service.

I don't want to forget the laughter and food and fellowship of girls' night, from cheese and chocolate fondue to embarrassing stories to heartfelt conversations about Jesus and relationships.

I don't want to forget the joy of having friends over for dinner, life and laughter shared over good food.

I don't want to forget that these days--these ordinary, commonplace, unexciting days--are pure gift.

Friday, September 2, 2011

{ Kaua'i ~ Part VIII: Polihale + Sunset }

Getting around Kauai is interesting. The island is basically a circle, but because of the rugged mountains in the interior {remember Mt. Waialeale, one of the wettest spots on earth?}, Kauai's highways go around the rim of the island. And because of the Na Pali coast, the highway is a broken circle--it doesn't go all the way around: There's a 17-mile stretch along the northwest side that is road-free.

We stayed at Princeville, just a few miles from the north end of the highway. So, to get to Polihale, the westernmost beach on Kauai, we drove literally all the way around the island, but ended up within 10 miles {as the crow flies} of where we started.

Polihale is an immense beach. It's 15 miles long and about 300 feet wide. Once the highway ends, you have to take dirt roads for about five miles to reach the beach. Luckily, it was dry when we went, so the dirt road was in good shape.

: : On the way to Polihale : :

The Na Pali mountains are a magnificent backdrop for this colossal beach. Can you see the pickup trucks on the sand?

The sheer size of everything at Polihale--beach, mountains, waves--is staggering.
And talk about HOT! We'd heard it's 3-5 degrees hotter on the west side of the island, which translates into burning the soles off your feet when running from your towel to the water!

That's Mike on the far left. I do not know how I managed to take a picture just as a wave struck him full-on, but I did and it cracks me up. The waves at Polihale are wicked powerful. I was swept off my feet and tumbled around several times when standing in less-than-waist-deep water. Really, really powerful surf! I managed not to lose my bathing suit, but it was close a couple times, and a lady nearby wasn't as lucky as me!

On our way back home, I asked Mike to pull over so I could take a photo of this building, the United States Post Office of Makaweli. Isn't it the cutest post office you've ever seen?

Earlier in the week, we'd gone to the grounds of the St. Regis Princeville and tried to catch the sunset. It was overcast, though, and a very unsatisfying sort of sunset. Mike was determined to get me to a beautiful sunset tonight, and we raced homeward to get to the St. Regis and literally run for the bluff!

That's Mike, high-tailing it toward the sunset.


Ahhhhhh. Now this is what I'm talking about!

: : Hanalei Bay : :

Isn't God amazing? Not only did I get to see a beautiful sunset, there "just happened" to be a sailboat leaving the bay!

Thank you, Mr. Mike, for sharing such a beautiful sunset with me.