For the Bride

This devotion was written to my daughter who is preparing for marriage in a few short weeks.  It was written by her mentor and my dear friend Melana Hunt Monroe and read aloud yesterday at a bridal shower. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. My prayer is that this encourages someone today.

“Endurance IS the currency of heaven” ~Melana Hunt Monroe

 

My beloved Cassidy,

The day you got engaged you posted, “We are overjoyed and can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for this next season!” If I could confidently share words that would enable you to navigate marriage with all the joy and hope you have right now, I would in a heartbeat. But that wish reveals my tendency to shrink from thinking on a loftier, grander, heavenly scale.  I think I would be closer to God’s heart to share with you how He matures our love and joy and hope towards resembling His own eternal, unchanging emotions, through a million minutes of happiness, grief, dread, delight, terror, amusement, enchantment, disappointment, and ecstasy over scores of years.

 

Truth be told, we all deeply want this. No one wants to have the maturity of a twelve-year-old at the lovely age of eighty.  Your Father has a VERY specific plan to ripen your spirit, and He has designed every single step (every.single.step.) in a way that will give you the greatest, purest joy.

 

Though your journey will be entirely unique (because you two are unique and He’s designed your path for YOU), there will be common features of the terrain that His children recognize (remember Christian’s journey to the Celestial City).  I’ll share a few landmarks I’ve seen, in the hope that you will recognize and embrace them as they come along.

 

WAITING.

There will never be a time you are not waiting. Right now you are waiting (eagerly) for your wedding. You will wait to graduate, wait to find a house, wait to find out if you are pregnant, or with some, wait through months of agonizing infertility for repeated dreaded news, maybe eventually wait for delivery, wait to see if the baby is “ok” (I could write a lot on that one), wait for good news, wait for bad news; waiting can become agony. You will always be waiting for something, and sometimes that process is excruciatingly hard. God places incredibly great value on waiting well. Trust, hope, faith, dread, all imply that what we see ahead must be bought with intentional patience. Hidden in all of the hundreds of Scriptural admonitions to wait (even the whole creation is waiting eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God), is the key, tucked in the opening verse of Ps 62: For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. Then repeated in verse 5: For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.

 

You see, my dear Cassidy, every desire of our heart, if it does not lead to waiting on God only, can quickly morph into an idol. The process of waiting reveals what we value the most at any given time.  When what we are waiting for consumes our emotions and energy, when it is what our mind boomerangs back to, it becomes the thing that – when fulfilled – will bring happiness rather than the Giver of every good gift Himself. And joy from an idol is hollow, frail, and temporal. I’ve found that God has kept me waiting until “waiting” becomes a friend. Waiting, as a true friend, leads me to Him, and is not just a (frustrating) constant companion. Here you can be a great helpmeet for Tad.  You will lean on each other to wait well, being strong when the other is weak, to intentionally keep your focus on God alone.

 

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. (Ps. 25:4-5). “Waiting all the day long” leads to:

 

ABIDING IN CHRIST

Do you remember Augustine’s prayer, “Command what You will, but give what You command”? When we apply his ancient wisdom to Christ’s commands in prayer, the commands become not only doable, but life-giving and hopeful (“hope is the present enjoyment of a future blessing” – quote from my dad).  It is strikingly evident when Christ Himself gives the ability to believe and obey His command to ‘Abide in Me.’ Faith is a gift; it is not attainable through effort, Eph 2:8-9…that’s why the perceptible presence of faith itself IS the evidence of things not seen, Heb 11:1) Many choices in married life are not ‘right or wrong’ or ‘black and white.’ Whether to eat this or that, live here or there, are not as important as the time in prayer together, searching, abiding in Christ with one mind.  This process can take a LOOOONG time. Which is why we have need of:

 

ENDURANCE

I think endurance can develop through three different situations. First, there is a kind of enduring where, though the trial is real, painful, and wearisome (even vexing), the outcome is visible and sure. An example would be these last creeping, slow days before your wedding, or the last agonizingly long month of a pregnancy. Even a terminal illness like my mother suffered fits in this category. The days are long, but the end is visible.

 

Second, there is a kind of endurance where the outcome is unknown.  The trial is long, and there is no indication or evidence that it will resolve, if ever. The fiery test has no expiration date; although we can ask God to resolve the issue, His concern is that we learn to be longsuffering, develop patience, resolve, trust; to study, learn, apply, pray, and ultimately simply stand until He says stand down. I’m thinking here of a dear friend, a lovely young woman in her thirties, who longs to get married, but has absolutely no prospects.  Other examples would be waiting for employment or for funds to come in, or for resolution to a horrible family relationship. There is hope for an end, but no timeline at all, if ever. The process is the terminus.

 

The third “flavor” of endurance is when we know for sure there will not be a resolution or end to the trial until He glorifies us after death. Here, your own dear father’s suffering, and my little Eve and Lissy are good examples. Embracing His strength in our weakness is the goal. We can even learn to see joy inside of the sorrow.  Every time I look at my granddaughters I feel both intense joy and overwhelming sorrow simultaneously.

 

I believe endurance is the ‘currency’ of heaven. It has such extreme value, Hebrews says that it was worth the horrific agony of the cross to pay for ‘the joy set before Him.’ Love makes endurance possible. Endurance does, however, have a limitation: we can only develop our eternal capacity for endurance here and now – what will there be to endure there? What will there be to be patient with in heaven? So if we earnestly yearn for an eternal weight of glory, sorrow and suffering will accompany us up our mountains, faithful companions to our Much Afraid. But remember that the Good Shepherd does change Sorrow and Suffering into Grace and Glory!

 

Back to your post. The Lord has in store for you great, massive, verdant meadows of great joy for frolicking. Some of that joy will come as a gift, from the Giver of all gifts, who simply delights to give you delight. Enjoy it immensely. He also will have you wait, agonizingly, to the point you can honestly say “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee.” You will abide together in Christ, so that “you can ask what ye will, and it will be done unto you,” and through abiding, together you will “bear much fruit” and your “joy will be full.”  And together you will endure pain, because your unity will become purer and stronger and brighter in the crucible. Everything “in store for you” is already planned for your good and His glory. Embrace it all. Jesus is Lord.

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Sowing for LIFE

mom and dad 1962

On April 17th, my parents celebrate 54 years of marriage.  Full of spunk and life, my mom is the ever-ready bunny and never stops MOVING, while my dad is her anchor and enjoys a good book snuggled up with his four-legged best friend, Molly.  Together my parents have weathered decades of joys and heartache; trials and triumphs, leaving a legacy behind for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

That legacy is FAITHFULNESS.

Even when the waters were choppy and the road seemed impassable, my folks weathered every storm and stayed together.  While loving and serving one another unconditionally, these two will make anyone laugh till your side hurts.  Our kids will randomly just start laughing as we recall comedic stories my parents have lived!  (Ask them to tell you about one early morning broken car horn and a convertible!) It will leave you in stitches.

Most importantly, my parents have modeled for me and my kids what it means to stay.

And for that I am forever grateful.

Happy Anniversary Ken and Nancy Bowen.

You are LOVED!!!

 

A Quiver Full…Yes or No?


 

With every baby comes a loaf of bread under its arm … Ancient Proverb

Have you ever wondered if you should even have children?  Do you look at the world and think, “Why would I bring a child into this crazy world?” Or maybe you look at the bank balance and think, “There’s no way we can afford another child!”  You may have one child and you are not sure about a second.  When do you know you are “done”?

I firmly believe that only the Lord and your spouse can guide you in this decision. God showed us early on to trust Him with our future family size.

My journey is not unique, maybe my story will be yours.

quiver-etched-brass-and-leather-bowman-archer-gear

 

I’ve recently been reminiscing on my life as a child and how child-less my upbringing was.  In a few days, we will celebrate the 5th birthday of our eighth (and looks like our last) child.

She was born at home with five other sisters in the home awaiting her arrival.  The brothers were not too far off with friends that day.

When Adaya Mercy arrived in April of 2011, I observed all my girls just watch in complete awe and amazement at what God had given them.

A new sister…

With a three-year-old in the home they were familiarized with all the ins and outs of newborns.

Don’t mess with the umbilical cord, careful with her soft spot, only mommies can give baby a bath, etc.

What struck me like a hole in my heart and literally made my breath stand still those first few days of her life was the realization that I grew up having never – not ever, been around babies or even very young kids.

Looking at all my kids at their ages when she was born….3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 16, and 18….I had to think back of where I was at all those ages.

I was living a self-focused, self-absorbed, me-centered life.  I had no idea as a child, what it meant to just want to pick up a sleeping baby in order to smell her freshly washed hair and feel her cuddly newborn body up against my chest.

After she arrived, my kids would go out of their way just to find where the baby is and pick her up to feel her gentle breath on their faces.

I knew nothing of that joy as a child.

So I really didn’t miss it.  Not only that, but I realized, that no one I knew had babies. None of my friends had any younger siblings around.

Even our small church seemed to be void of a nursery (or at least I never saw it as a young child).  Growing up in the 70’s was like that, you may have had the same experience.  I never remember even seeing a pregnant woman, let alone any babies growing up. Of course I’m sure they were around, I just never noticed.

It was my sophomore year in college before I had even seen a woman with several small children, before I ever saw someone nurse a baby.  That mom’s name was Laura, and when I met her and her children in 1990, it was the first seed that God planted in my heart for having a family, a big family.  I say all this because now, at 47 I am humbled and awed by God’s decision to bless us with a large family.  This is a script I could have never written in a million years.

Babies were foreign to me.

As a teenager, I was selfish, and up until Jesus became the center of my life, I was headed to a life of careers and Lord only knows what else.  When I gave my heart fully to Jesus, I abandoned every preconceived notion and trusted Him with the rest.

Including my womb.

He really does know what He’s doing.

He really is the Sovereign one, and He really can make the right decisions for us and our body no matter what His answer is concerning having, adopting, or simply mentoring more children. By trusting Jesus with our future, we can live a life of no regrets.  Recently, my husband Joey looked at me reflectively and said, “What if we would have stopped at two kids?  Then there would be empty seats at our table!” If we choose to stop, we can’t even imagine all that we would have missed out on.

I know there is comfort in control.  That it is human nature for people to want to control their environment and by controlling a family size, it makes couples feel a sense of security.  It can be counter-intuitive and it requires more faith to have more children than we might feel comfortable with because it can mean we must surrender control. Trusting God with your family size is a faith walk because you can’t see what’s on the other side.  We can’t predict the outcome.

We must, “sow with a vision of righteousness.” Hosea 10:12

Whether you are a young mom and exhausted because you are chasing around toddlers, or maybe you are in the hospital having just delivered your second child and the doctor asks you if you want to be “done” with having kids, please take some time to prayerfully surrender to God’s leadership and direction in your family’s life, and let God choose your quiver size.

Finally, a wise mentor told me as a young bride that the two most important things you will ever give your child outside of introducing them to Christ Jesus,

is a strong marriage relationship

…and siblings.

Special Thanks to https://www.etsy.com/listing/123613905/discounted-price-archery-quiver-leather?ref=market

Sowing in Marriages

marriage

A couple of weeks ago on Valentine’s Day I was at the home of a friend of mine who was entertaining her five young grandkids for a week so that her daughter could travel on a much needed, long overdue anniversary trip with her husband.

This was no ordinary week with Grandma!

Those kids had more fun packed into one week than their mom admittedly can pack into six months. They spent a long day at the Children’s Museum, went to the park, a petting zoo, the movies, played outside all day, and even hosted a massive Valentine’s Party for about 30 young kids ages 12 and under. The party I attended with my five younger kids was loaded with sugar and sunshine, painting, go-carts, pizza making, and cookie decorating.

It was a perfect day, and her grandkids didn’t give a second thought that day to the fact that mom and dad were away at a resort in Mexico. When mom and dad came home, not only were their love tanks full from time away and alone, but their kid’s love tanks were overflowing from an action packed week with the grandparents.

This got me to thinking

If more of us set aside our own personal schedules and routines, and embraced the children of a couple in need of a long overdue get-a-way…

Maybe we wouldn’t see a 60% failure rate in marriages?

If more of us actively sought out a struggling young couple with small children, or teens at home, who might be in need of a long date night…

…maybe we could save just one marriage?

I heard on the radio a few weeks ago a powerful message from Andy Stanley, he was speaking to the Christian church who often have the mindset that we have a greater impact on the world when we host marriage conferences for hundreds of couples, or travel to the foreign mission field and preach to thousands of people, or when we give to causes that put water wells in third world nations and save entire villages, or traveling to orphanages to volunteer  for a couple of weeks sharing God’s love to dozens of orphans?

All these things are wonderful acts of service, but how many of us can (and will) drop everything and do something “BIG” for God?

Andy Stanley made a powerful statement that morning on the radio that I won’t forget,

“DO FOR THE ONE, WHAT YOU WISH YOU COULD DO FOR THE MANY”

Look around you this week.  Somewhere nearby, there may be a couple in need of alone time.

Perhaps a date night, a three or four day retreat, or even a week long get-a-way?

We reap what we sow.

Who’s marriage are YOU helping?