To My Niece on Her Wedding Day

First time holding baby

I’m not quite sure how to begin this but to say that you are brave and that I love you. Yes, that’s me as a scrawny 10-year-old holding you for the first time. You weren’t a particularly big baby, but you seemed that way to me, propped up on the pillows of your mom and dad’s bed in their first house out in the country with the gravelly driveway.

I didn’t know how to hold babies and certainly not one this precious, you being the first grandkid and all. From the start you stole the show and yes, maybe I was a little bit jealous at first because I was no longer the baby of the family, but here was one who was cuter and smelled better and gurgled in truly the most adorable way.

I’ve watched you through the years transform into a beautiful woman, one who looks out for the interests of others, who is generous and kind with her time, her words and her resources, one who is wise beyond her years.

And now. You will be marrying this spectacular guy and I’ll be meeting him for the first time tomorrow. What if I don’t approve and have to give him the stink eye on his wedding day? I guess I’ll just have to deal because everybody else really, really likes him, and I’d just be the odd-man-out if I snubbed your new husband.

I know, this is my time to be offering wise advice, how to keep the embers burning, how to make love last, but I might just be one of the last people you should ask…instead (and I know you already have) look to your parents’ and grandparents’ example…

There will come a time when he will be frail and sick and need you in every way possible. Show up, care for him in the way that he needs it, not in the way you think he needs it.

There will be a time when you feel overshadowed and maybe a little bit jealous, rejoice in his successes like they were your own because, truly, they are. He has achieved this because of you not in spite of you.

There will be a time when you feel tired or grumpy or just need to be alone for a few hours. First, apologize for whatever you said in your sad/mad/sleepy stage and offer a hug. If said hug is not accepted at that time, know that it will be later. Then, take that time that you need to be alone, because you both will be better for it.

There will be a time when you are at an impasse. Pray. Pray hard because then God will change your heart or his, and maybe both of yours over time. I’m confident that God doesn’t leave us where we are–James 1:5 –“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

There will be misunderstanding, frustration, anger, silence sometimes but there will also be fantastic, amazing things like excitement, adoration, joy, comfort, fulfillment, generosity, surprise, laughter.

And one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard? Treat him better than you would your best friend.

Amanda, I don’t have much to give you but my words. I admire you so much. I don’t say that about a lot of people. I know that you are going to do this with God’s help. I know that Jesus has been shaping you and changing you (as he does with all of us). I’m also excited to see the fulfillment of God giving you the desire of your heart as you have delighted yourself in Him all these years.

Always know that you have someone praying for you, every day, miles away for the family that you are and that you will become, and if you’re smart (and I know you are) you have only to take a look around at your brothers’ broods to see what raising a family is all about. I’m excited for you. Go get this.

with love,

Aunt Rachel

Dear friends, since God loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  I John 4:12

When the Way Seems Mostly Cloudy

I was at a crossroads a few years ago in the months before my divorce was final.  I had a choice to stay here in Georgia or move to be closer to my family up North.  Month upon agonizing month I struggled with the weight of it, and the only thing I really knew to do was to listen to this Third Day song as I ran on the treadmill–at least on a treadmill, there is an illusion of going somewhere…

But I know I’m not the only one who has been in a barren place: as the Israelites moved from place to place in the desert, they had a visible sign of the Lord’s guidance:

Exodus 13:21-22 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or by night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. 
And we know that the very presence of the Lord dwelt in their place of worship later on in Exodus: 
Exodus 40:34-38 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.
I am reminded of all this as our study in I Kings moves along to chapter eight.  Solomon dedicates the temple, this structure that took seven years to build.  It required more gold, precious wood, manpower and skill than we could possibly imagine.  God was pleased with this massive undertaking and it’s completion.  When the ark was finally brought to the temple and set in the Most Holy Place, we see:
I Kings 8:10 When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord.  And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple.  
There it goes, every time I read or write that very verse, my hearts swells with emotion, God was so pleased that nothing else could fill that Most Holy Place.  What are we trying to fit into our most holy place–self-glory, recognition, worry, fear?  We have to let the Lord fill that space.  Him and Him alone.  The priests and kings and people of the land can look on in wonder and we will know that we have something far greater alive within us.  How amazing is that?  Maybe then the way will seem a little clearer?
Maybe you’re thinking: wouldn’t it be kind-of nice to still have that pillar of cloud here today?  When His presence hovered over a certain church, a life-mate or even the right  car to purchase?  Wait a minute, he does, because according to Romans 8:9-10, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” and Romans 5:5b: “…because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”  Do you realize the power in these two verses?  Especially, the first?  The very spirit of God abides, lives, moves, takes charge in us.
So, no, we do not have a pillar of cloud or of fire, but we have the presence of our Almighty God LIVING in us. 
Which begs the question: how are we showing that fiery presence to those around us?

A Call Home

I’m home, full-time, and it feels different, but this where God has been calling my heart for the last several months. 

Back in February, I started back working full-time for the first time in about 3 years.  A lot has changed in those 3 years.  I’ve changed, but somehow, even though my thinking, my lifestyle, everything had absolutely shifted, I found myself being sucked into this old mindset that money=security.  Let me share what money actually has meant for me these last several months: spending 2.5 frantic hours with my daughter every day, 2 1/4 hours of which were consumed with meal preparation, cleanup and discipline.  That’s right, I had about 15 minutes a day to lie down in bed with her to read her a story before she fell asleep.  This just wasn’t working.  My heart was breaking and finally I decided that I needed to request that I go part-time.  This wasn’t an option, so I handed my resignation in about 2 weeks ago.  Through this whole time, God has given me peace, I’m telling you it’s unreal, and I’m also telling you that God had a pretty cool way of confirming this decision: I was standing in the corner of the copy room at work, just a few days after I’d made my final decision and God said, “I gave her to you for a reason.”  That’s all I needed to know I was doing the right thing.  Where we proceed from here?  I’m trusting Him.
Proverbs 19:21—Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Photo licensed under Creative Commons by nate steiner

When Things Don’t Make Sense

I’ll be putting our house up for sale in the next few weeks. I knew this moment would come eventually, but not quite this soon, so it’s bittersweet. After spending a good deal of time in prayer over it, I knew that God was confirming it, which was why I contacted my agent last week to get the ball rolling. I was in the car the other night, getting a little teary-eyed over the idea when God asked, “Do you want my best?” That was all it took, a confirmation, that yes, Rachel, this is hard, it’s not something you necessarily will want to do right now, but it’s the right thing.

For months now I’ve been going back to Proverbs 3: 5, 6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

Even so, there’s a few favorite things I’ll miss:

1) the quiet
2) the beautiful trees (but not necessarily the year-round raking)
3) the Tony Danza (think 80’s sitcom “Who’s the Boss?”) swinging door between the kitchen and the dining room
4) the back deck

How about you? What things have you given up in the past and you later realized that God had an even bigger plan?