Friday, December 18, 2015

Reflecting on Year 1 of Marriage

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
I hope that I have loved others well and I hope that I will grow in humility the rest of my days. However, to be frank, before getting married, I spent 24 years doting on myself. I know my likes and dislikes quite well by now! Really, I have it all down to a science it seems. My mom is probably most familiar with the intricacies of my self-centered heart, but even she is often left guessing. Suffice it to say, the man I dated for 2 years and have been married to for 1, does not necessarily love on me in the ways I choreograph affection in my head. During the first months of marriage, I would find myself befuddled as to why Josh had not done this or that.

Why didn’t he buy that stuffed animal I was gushing over? Doesn’t he know that would have been the perfect way to love on me in that moment?

Why did he not get me flowers for that special occasion? Isn’t that what men are supposed to do?

When he got home early, why did he play video games instead of doing my least favorite chore? Doesn’t he know a surprise like that would make my day?

Disgusting, right?? I would actually get upset that Josh was not showing me love in the ways I expected or wanted. Now, let me state the obvious before moving on: 1) Communication, even about the little things, is vital in marriage. 2) The things I wanted are not wrong, but in my case were rooted in superficial and selfish desires. 3) Marriage’s purpose is not to keep another person happy.

I am thankful that Josh does not satisfy every secret whim of my heart; to do so would not be in line with his God-given role as husband, and would not be beneficial to me in any truly positive way. To “love your neighbor (or spouse) as yourself” does not include the sinfully selfish ways we put ourselves first. Josh has a great concern for my spiritual and physical well-being that goes far beyond material trinkets. He seeks to consider me more significant than himself. The patience, grace and love he shows me are astounding, and very much undeserved. God asks husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church – sacrificially and with the motive of purity. This is not how the world naturally thinks of love, and the same goes for me. I am forever grateful then, for God’s higher purposes, and for a husband who desires to love me the way God loves me rather than the way I have tried to love myself.

So ladies, pray that your husbands would love you faithfully and passionately as God does, not worship you shallowly as we often do of ourselves! I’m not saying husbands should stop loving through spontaneous donut runs and chick flick nights, but we must turn away from feelings of entitlement and control. Recognize, respect and appreciate the new ways you’re shown love in marriage. Your husband provides a unique glimpse of how God loves you!



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Gender is not a choice.

 The heart is deceitful above all things,
    and desperately sick;
    who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

Regardless of who we are or where we live, the categories of right and wrong always exist. God sets the standard for goodness because he is entirely good, eternal and unchanging, and Creator of the universe. While God is concerned with truth, Satan is the father of lies (a once good creation, turned against God). If we believe lies and negate such a basic truth as gender, nothing else can hold up to reason. [Genesis 1:26-31; John 8:42-45; 1 Corinthians 3:18-20]

If gender is a flexible choice and sexual preference is an inflexible passion, where do we draw the lines, and who gets to draw them? Most do not condone adultery, polygamy, pedophilia or bestiality, but why? If you have a kind, generous life-long friend who happens to find immense pleasure from child pornography, what right do you have to stand in the way of her happiness? If we can self-identify with a different gender, shouldn’t we also be able to choose our race or species? If not, on what grounds is this wrong?

If we base truth on individual preferences, there are no grounds for true discernment and discipline. Personal desires should not dictate our morality; our inner feelings are not inherently trustworthy! On a day to day basis, I personally desire many things that are not good. I try to resist temptations, but many times I fail. I do not hope to embrace these times, but repent (meaning, turn – away from sin and towards God).

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Just as you cannot buy love, you cannot buy gender. You can pay for a prostitute, or pay for hair extensions and implants – but it’s not the same. It is incredibly insulting to claim that a mindset and makeover make a person who they are. Being a woman or man is not about hair length, wardrobe or an inner feeling. Gender is at the very root of personhood, a God ordained trait that is immovable. Just as water is wet and salt is salty, men and women are designed in a timeless fashion with purpose, order and unique beauty.

We live in a world broken by sin, so what comes naturally is not always right. What is right is often difficult, requiring great endurance. But there is hope! God does not wait to love us and forgive us when we have accomplished some sort of perfection; he loved sinful humanity enough to send Christ to absorb our punishment. By faith we are saved, and by faith we continue forward in obedience! God is all-knowing and pure, entirely trustworthy and just. To submit to his design is not foolish, no matter what the world may say. [James 1:12-18; Romans 5:6-11; John 3:16-21]

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
Psalm 139:13-14


Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Great Artist

One of my favorite NC spots is the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. Even though I missed the prime Springtime show, my most recent trip was hardly a disappointment (aside from the parking ticket, haha!). My husband graciously walked alongside me down various paths as my tunnel vision kicked in and beads of sweat began to form. My love for nature and photography is amateur, but very real! I enjoy taking pictures that remind me of other things in life; see the captions below.

However, my love for the Creator of these critters and plants is much greater (although yes, in many ways just as amateur...). Photography may be considered an art, but it only captures a glimpse of the beauty. The veins in a leaf, the vibrant hues, the fuzzy bees, transparent wings - they are all designed by God! The textures and patterns, sounds and smells, all are a masterpiece. This trip and these pictures remind me how creative and detailed is my God. If his work is this complex and lovely in simply the picturesque backdrop of our lives, how much more involved is he in my own body and soul. As humans, we are special and unique creations - valuable because we are given life by a loving and intelligent Heavenly Father who does not work haphazardly (Psalm 139).

Just as the short lives of insects and plants are ordered to promote thriving, we too are made for specific roles and under certain structures so that flourishing might occur. God has supreme understanding and authority in regards to all of life, so may we cling to his word (the Bible) and follow Christ in faith - faith that reaches into every nook and cranny of our lives.

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so.
Genesis 1:11
But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8

That bee was digging away, like a woman scavenging through her purse!

Nature collage comes to mind...

Like a girl with a little flower tucked behind her ear.

Beauty is in the eye of the "beeholder" ;)

I imagine a little girl full of freckles.

Melting an orange creamsicle!

A shy child in a busy crowd.
Conquering Everest!

Reminds me of an older lady who still maintains that hint of glamour.

Like a homeless person, with so many passing them by.

Beauty of youth and beauty with age.

I just want to jump in and take a nap!

Tea party, gather 'round!
Like a sunny girl who has seen better days...chin up, radiance is around the corner!

 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed...
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Psalm 34:4-5, 8
For further exploration:
Song - "Thrive"
Matt Chandler sermon series (HIGHLY recommend) - A Beautiful Design

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Carraway Adoption Story

Mike and Jane Carraway, and their daughters Melanie and Katie, adopted Eli into their family in 2007. He was adopted from Russia through a U.S. agency.

The Decision to Adopt

Mike and I had never really considered adoption because we already had two daughters. But, the desire to have a son never left me. One day I just realized that no matter how our children come into our lives, they are gifts from God. Their stories might vary, but they are entrusted to us just the same. It really just felt like a divine nudge!
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." James 1:27

The Challenges & The Joys

The first great challenge was convincing Mike that this was something that God wanted us to pursue. It took some time, but once we were on the same page, it was full steam ahead. There were many challenges, but I guess the greatest was the need to be patient on God's timing. It did seem to take forever! Then of course, there were the travel woes, the language barrier, and the fact that Eli screamed every time we touched him while we were visiting him in the orphanage.

The greatest joys were the moments he began to let us in emotionally. He allowed us to just pick him up and walk out of the orphanage with him. It truly was a miraculous moment! He had literally screamed every time we tried to love on him before we took him with us. I think he realized that we meant what we had been saying. He was going to be our son!


I don't think adoption is for everyone. I don't think having children is for everyone. But, if you even are remotely open to the idea, adoption is such a wonderful opportunity to be a parent! We've had so many people through the years say what a blessed little boy Eli is, but we think it's the opposite! We are so blessed to have a healthy, smart boy as our son. He has taught us so many things. Adoption is such a beautiful picture of salvation. And, what finally got Mike on the same page as me was the verse James 1:27. He said he just couldn't get past the fact that we are called to do something for the orphans. God doesn't call everyone to adopt, but we certainly aren't supposed to turn a blind eye to them!
(Southern Love Photography)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Turnbo Adoption Story

Adoption is a loving choice made in the midst of, perhaps, bittersweet circumstances. It provides an illustration of the gospel, as God adopts into his kingdom those who are united with Christ through faith (John 1:6-13, Galatians 4:4-5, Ephesians 1:3-14). God extends eternal love, compassion and refuge to a broken world. I am excited to see similar love poured out through families around me, and I hope you will be encouraged as well!

Brandi and Rob's adoption of 7 year old Aidan was finalized this year. Brandi has kindly shared a glimpse of their story below.

The Decision to Adopt

We pursued adoption because God gave us the heart. For years I had it set in my mind that I didn’t want kids.  I loved my life the way it was and never felt the need to share it with anyone else.  I liked kids but I liked that I wasn’t responsible for them more!  Yet a few years ago my heart started changing. 
Telling my husband was the hardest part because kids were never part of our conversations.  He had two girls already and was content with that.  We had the conversation one day while eating dinner in Afghanistan.  The crazy thing was he felt it too!  We were definitely not alone in this decision.

The Challenges & The Joys

One of the greatest challenges is waiting!  You definitely have to learn to be patient through the process.  We spent about 8 months filling out paperwork, going to classes, making phone calls, etc.  When you’re finally done…the waiting begins.  You can do nothing to speed the process except know that God is bringing your child to you.  We were fortunate we met Aidan pretty quick and he moved in right away.  We then waited for over a year and a half until the adoption was finalized. 

As happy as this moment was for us, it was very sad for Aidan.  When we told him the adoption was finalized he put his head down and cried.  He said, “I just always thought I could go back (meaning his previous family) and now I can’t.”  Those are hard words to hear from your child.  I know he needs to mourn his many losses so God strengthens me when I hear those words.  It’s hard to think there were so many “moms” in his life.  I was not his first for many things and I do not have any idea of what his journey was like.  

Aidan's adoption was much different than the typical way, but unfortunately not totally uncommon.  He was originally adopted through international adoption from Columbia.  Sadly, the adoption disrupted and we ended up getting him through private adoption.  Disrupted meaning they adopted him but then chose to put him back up for adoption. Fortunately, we have become very close with this family and God has blessed Aidan with two families who adore him!

Our son has changed our lives.  I now know the joy of being a mother.  He has brought us so much happiness!  Our relationship with each other has changed for the good.  We’re closer to each other and we’re closer to God.  God is teaching me what it is to be there for others instead of being there for just myself.  Aidan says the best thing about being adopted is having a mom and dad who love him.  He's so happy to belong to a family! 

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
Psalm 46:10


Mercy for America's Children has been a huge blessing.  I would recommend anyone to find an organization like theirs for support.  We felt we were as prepared as we could possibly be by having others to share our experience. 

You will be told that “you will just know when you meet YOUR child.”  This is the truth!  God has a plan for your family and you will be together for His purpose.  Adoption is not easy.  It comes with challenges.  Every child being adopted has trauma.  They are separated from their birth family and they will always wonder how they fit in.  Some children’s trauma is more significant than others, but they all have it.  Be patient and understanding with your child.  They are worth it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Business of Forgiving

God’s love for his creation and  his plan for redemption is radical. So radical, in fact, that the thought of Christ and Christians forgiving one man has sparked outrage across our nation. It’s extremely difficult for us to imagine extending forgiveness for the perverse sexual assault of children, and yet Christ was willing to give his life for Josh Duggar (and for Bruce Jenner, me, you, the Food Lion clerk, Hitler, Gandhi, etc.). I do not know all the details surrounding Josh’s heinous acts, nor do I know his heart. However, I would like to try and explain why many Christians are responding the way they are. This is what we believe, and it affects our response.
1) What makes a person guilty before God?
Any amount of sin. [See Romans 3:9-24]
2) What qualifies as sin?
Anything that is contrary to God’s commands/standards is sin. Any willful thought, word or action that falls short of the purity of our Creator is sin. Jesus said not only murder and adultery, but anger and lust are sins that will be judged and are worthy of punishment in hell. [Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28; Leviticus 20:26; Matthew 5:48, James 2:8-13]
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
James 2:10

3) What are the consequences of sin?
Sin separates us from a personal relationship with God while we live on earth. It drives a wedge between us and God that no human efforts can mend. Our sin also affects the world around us – even our words can be “full of deadly poison” (James 3:5-10). The greatest punishment, however, is death. This is not only physical death, but a spiritual death that involves eternal separation from God, and therefore separation from all goodness. The fires of hell and eternal torment are the consequence for sins against an eternal God. [James 1:14-15; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Matthew 25:31-32, 41, 46]

4) Is there any way to be forgiven?
Remarkably, yes.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 3:23

5) How are people forgiven?
Forgiveness comes through repentance and faith in Christ. I’m not sure how to express the depth of this in so few words. First of all, biblical teaching is that repentance is “more than just remorse” – it is a “wholehearted turning to God…a complete turn from self to God" (1376). Salvation from the previously mentioned consequences of sin comes through a rejection of our old self and a receiving of a new life, united with Christ in faith and completely surrendered to him. Fully human and fully God (and fully sinless), Jesus alone was able to atone for the sins of humans. He absorbed our punishment for sin when he died on the cross, and defeated that death when he rose from the grave. This plan runs from Genesis to Revelation, the beginning of time until the end of time. It is not haphazard, but an intricate and intentional plan of a loving God. [Luke 5:32; Romans 8:1-14; Isaiah 43:25]

6) Are some people beyond hope?
No. God does not show favoritism. Prostitutes and murderers alike were loved by Jesus – they were forgiven, and their lives changed forever. All who genuinely come to Christ will be forgiven, and eternal salvation cannot be stripped from a person. It is not earned, so our efforts (good or bad) do not have the power to maintain or eliminate salvation. Every sinner forgiven by Christ has a secure hope for the unimaginably beautiful eternity he has planned. [Hebrews 8:12; Romans 2:11; James 3:2; Luke 15:7; Romans 10:10-13; Ephesians 2:8-10]

7) How are we to respond to all this?
I hope you might seek to understand the Christian viewpoint, but if you have no relationship with Christ then I can’t really speak to your actions apart from the law. Responsibilities for the Christian, however, are as follows: Confess sin directly to God and others in the church, praise God for his forgiveness, extend forgiveness to all (how can we withhold forgiveness in a human to human situation when the God of the universe has forgiven our lifetime of sins against him?), and provide accountability for fellow Christians, participating in church discipline if needed. Amidst temptations and sins, Christians are to continue living a life of repentance and faith as God’s children – and we are not to take advantage of God’s grace, using it as an excuse for sin to abound. [Romans 6:1-2, 9-11]

To conclude…Josh’s story is not a new one. Those who follow Christ and read his word, the Bible, recognize this controversy as all too familiar with only a few details being different than their own life with God. The sins that have been made public were disgusting and the implications devastating. No one is debating that. His sin renders him worthy of hell and God’s eternal judgment. However, if he confessed his guilt, genuinely repented before God, and turned to follow Christ, he is a new man. He will still fall to sin, as do all Christians, but by God’s grace and mercy he is forgiven and living under the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Do not expect followers of Christ to hold a grudge in situations where our God extends mercy and grace.

If the acts of sexual abuse were committed recently, or if Josh was defending his actions, a great deal of discipline would be needed. However, the matter was addressed over a decade ago by his family, church and police. If their response was inadequate, that’s very unfortunate and we can reflect on any potential changes needed in the law – but it was dealt with seriously as they saw fit, and those of us currently learning about the tragedy do not constitute a jury. My hope now is continued healing for the girls, and continued accountability with brothers in Christ or counseling for Josh if he still struggles with impure sexual desires.

* Chad Brand, Charles Draper and Archie England, ed., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Gift of a Mom

           This Mother’s Day weekend, I just have to declare in writing what we’re all thinking: moms are sweet drops of sunshine in a broken world! I am surrounded by moms in all areas of life, and I’m honored to be in a position to glean wisdom from your motherhood adventures. Thank you for sharing these lessons learned.

Mothers get messy!

Thirty seconds into feeding Eoin, I get a nice grunt and a warm feeling on my leg. Yeah, he pooped out of the diaper and through a sleeper and a onesie onto the leg of my pants. - Cara Cahill, mom of Eoin 

Once poo habits get a bit more structured, the responsibilities and privileges only grow. ;)

Mothers Educate

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.
Proverbs 1:8-9

Help them grow spiritually. Just like brushing your teeth before bedtime was not an option, neither was going to church! - Susan Walsh, mom of Jason

READ! Read to your kids often, and not just baby books. Read classics that are appropriate, read recipes out loud, buy good quality books! - Melony Gray, mom of Frasher, Cason, Naomi & Evan

From the time they are infants, take them to church. We told our boys that their ministry was to be at church so that there would at least be 2 other youth present if a visiting youth came. - Debbie Clem, mom of Ben & Tyler

Help kids realize how their actions, positive and negative, affect others. Since they lack real world experience, kids often don't realize how much they can do. - Amy Misenheimer, mom of Ada & Cole

Mothers Discipline

Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.
Proverbs 29:17

Being a mom takes a balancing act between love and discipline.  You have to love your kids to the point that they know without a doubt you are on their team, behind them and accept them for who they are.  At the same time you have to be their guide and teacher.  God has entrusted you with their lives, their hearts and helping them to navigate life.  You have to be firm, fair and consistent in discipline.  You cannot always be their friend because you have to be their parent first and foremost. - Amy Harvey, mom of Camden & MacKenna

Teach your children manners and respect for others from day 1! Do not wait. It is pure joy to see and hear the respect they have for people when they interact with them. But this MUST start when they are very young.  – Debbie Clem

Be the parent, not a best buddy. I always told Jason - "I'll be your friend and your pal, but first and foremost, I'm your Mother." – Susan Walsh

Mothers Love

Tell them you love them often—with words and actions. - Debbie Clem

Have fun!!! Sometimes you have to crash the routine, throw caution to the wind, and get crazy! Eat dinner with no utensils, make a random park trip on a school night, let the kids shop for and cook dinner. I have a hard time with this one because I know it's usually easier to stick with our routine but life is too short to do the same thing every day and I want to make sure the kids realize that life shouldn't be lived on repeat. The laundry can wait. The TV show will be on again. The work will be there when you get back to it. Right now only happens right now. Make it count! - Amy Misenheimer

BE INVOLVED in your child's life. They grow up so fast and each milestone is so special. – Susan Walsh

Take the time to truly get to know your children, the good, bad and the ugly, it will be SO worth your time.  But the most most most important thing you can share with them is the love of God and to make time to have a relationship with him.  It will be the best gift or lesson you will ever give your children. - Diana Knipp, mom of Brittany, Alex, Courtney

An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels…
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Proverbs 31:10, 27-30

Saturday, April 25, 2015

My 7 Recommendations for the Christian's Library

In addition to the Bible of course, as our only direct, perfect and authoritative word from God, these are books that have helped me grow as a believer. There are so many more I hope to read (I'm talking about you, C. S. Lewis!), but in my small library these are at the top of the stack!

What books have been meaningful to you as a follower of Christ?

1) The Explicit Gospel, Matt Chandler
The gospel is the foundation for every Christian’s faith and life. But do we really understand the depth of our claims?

“The gospel of Jesus is epic. When Jesus says he saw Satan fall like lightening from the sky, he is saying that the gospel is about the overthrow of evil itself, not just about our sinful behavior. When Jesus casts out demons, he is saying that the gospel is about his authority and God’s sovereignty. When Jesus heals the sick and the lame, he is saying that the gospel is about the eradication of physical brokenness. When Jesus feeds the five thousand, he is saying that the gospel is about God’s abundant provision through Christ to a world of hunger. When Jesus walks on water or calms the storm, he is saying that the gospel is about his lordship over the chaos of fallen creation. When Jesus confounds the religious leaders, overturns tables, tells rich people it will be hard for them, renders unto Caesar, enters the city on a jackass, predicts the temple’s destruction, and stands silent before the political rulers, he is saying the gospel has profound effects on our systems. When Jesus forgives sin and raises the dead, he is saying the gospel is about individuals being born again, but he’s also saying that the gospel is about his conquest of sin and death.”


2) And the Bride Wore White, Dannah Gresh 
Pursuing purity is a great challenge. If I could make this mandatory reading for every woman hoping to marry one day, I would!

“In all of your love for God, you could be blind-sided by worldly passions. When I realized how difficult the path of purity can be, I stood before God and I said, 'OK, teach me to say no. I know these worldly passions exist, but I know the only way I will be able to say NO is if you teach me!' And from that moment on, God worked in me and gave me a resolve that I did not even know that I had within me...The difference was that now I had placed myself in God’s presence to be taught how to say no.”


3) Radical, David Platt
The “American dream” is contrary to God’s mission. Platt challenges believers to follow Christ with all that we are and all that we have.

“Even if we have a desire to learn God’s Word, we still listen from a default self-centered mind-set that is always asking, What can I get out of this? But as we have seen, this is unbiblical Christianity…What if we began to think, How can I listen to his Word so that I am equipped to teach this Word to others? This changes everything…When we realize we have the responsibility to teach the Word, it changes everything about how we hear the Word.”


4) Questioning Evangelism, Randy Newman
Jesus often answered questions with questions, and we would be wise to do the same.

“To be sure, if our motivation for expressing anger is pure, unadulterated, righteous indignation, as it surely was for Jesus and Jeremiah, then we’ve got every right to yell. The problem is, what stands behind our rantings is often something else. Too many of our evangelistic efforts bear little fruit because our motivation, rather than being based on righteous anger, is tainted by sinful anger. Our words, then, have more sinful anger than truth in them.”


5) Life Everlasting, Dan C. Barber & Robert A. Peterson
The eternity that God has planned for his children is magnificent and complex.

“Christians often talk about living with God ‘in heaven’ forever. But in fact the biblical teaching is richer than that: it tells us that there will be new heavens and a new earth – an entirely renewed creation – and we will live with God there.”
- Wayne Grudem


6) God on Sex, Dr. Daniel Akin
What does God think about marriage and intimacy? He’s a much bigger fan than any of us! Dr. Akin walks through Song of Solomon to explore God’s thoughts as the creator of sex.

“I looked up into heaven and told God there was no hope…I would never be able to understand romance from the female perspective. At that point God was gracious to me, and He gave me insight as to how this romance thing works from the female perspective. I now share it with all my fellow males throughout the world.” (I will stop there, but I hope your interest is peaked! hehe)


7) Evangelism Handbook, Dr. Alvin Reid
Dr. Reid shares anecdotes & advice on how to live out the Great Commission.

“So evangelism means we have a specific, victorious message to tell. We need to make evangelism GOOD NEWS again. We seem to think it is bad news; otherwise we might talk about the gospel more.”
* Bonus Recommendation *
I have only just begun reading, but I want to go ahead and give a shout-out to Kevin Harvey's new book! With a great sense of humor and unique perspective, All You Want to Know About the Bible in Pop Culture finds glimpses of the gospel in unexpected places.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

5 Wedding Planning Tips from the Bride

Valerie Lynn Photography
Friendly acquaintance: Ooo wedding planning, aren’t you having just so much fun?!
Me, outwardly: Yeah…it’s going ok I think.
Me, inwardly: Um, I’m so stressed out about this guest list that I spent two hours last night crying and binge-eating Pringles!

                Although I am an amateur in the wedding world, I hope being a bride gives my list a bit of credibility! In our wedding, my husband and I made choices that I am very thankful for, but there are also things I would consider doing differently. As we were reminded in the days of preparation: If at the end of the day you are married, the wedding was a success! I could actually leave my encouragement at that, but I do want to share a few extra thoughts for any brides-to-be.
1) Set your priorities early.
Weddings are expensive. Somehow that has become the lay of the land. However, whether you are in a financial crunch or not, I highly recommend frugality. Talk with your fiancé to determine what areas hold the greatest value for you, and in which areas you’re willing to be more flexible. Don’t drain the bank for photography, videography, catering, decorations, clothing, venues, and wedding party gifts; invest in a few, and get creative with the rest. You don’t have to buy diamond jewelry for your bridesmaids, and you don’t even have to buy Save the Date cards at all. A couple weeks into marriage when your pipes burst and your roof starts leaking…you may wish you hadn’t spent thousands of dollars on floral decorations and monogramed napkins!

Valerie Lynn Photography

2) Strive to be selfless.
At every turn, someone is telling you: “This is your day.” Oh, how this mindset makes it very hard to not be greedy and controlling! The truth is, your friends and family have preferences and hopes for your special day as well. I was not expecting this, but requests and recommendations will be made that go against your original plans.  Resist bitterness and every now and then take one for the team, so to speak. In no way do I suggest becoming a doormat, but I do advise taking the opinions of others into true consideration. For example, if your mother has been dreaming of an elaborate dinner, but you and your fiancé have already determined the meal to be one of your lower priorities and want to do light hors d’oeuvres, gently but firmly tell her you want to take a different route. If possible, find a way to compromise, such as hiring a caterer she likes. But in areas that you choose to be more flexible, be prepared to let a few preferences go. This is your wedding day, but it’s a day shared with many loved ones and is not intended for your enjoyment only. Look for ways to ensure that your guests will feel loved and have fun.

3) Ask for help from a variety of sources.
You’re surrounded by friends and family (also coworkers, acquaintances, neighbors, and more!) who have a wealth of talents and connections. Turn to these people for assistance; do not try to accomplish everything alone! Planning a wedding can be a monumental task, but I encourage you to not let it become a burden. My parents spent countless hours helping me with wedding favors and decorations, and our church family was involved in officiating, leading worship music, coordinating, catering, and more. I was astonished with how many little details arose each week that I had never thought about, and many days I felt overwhelmed. It was not until I received help from others, professional or not, that I was able to relax and truly move forward.

4) Let your personalities shine!
God has made you and your fiancé unique. Although weddings involve a great deal of tradition, your day does not have to be like everyone else’s. You are not required to have a cake, bouquet, music selection, and hair-do like those found in magazines or found at your best friend’s wedding. Take hold of this freedom and have fun! Personal touches will mean much more than any pricy ideas the wedding industry may push your way. So if you love Taylor Swift, give the DJ a list of her songs to play. If you collect cute soaps, find some in bulk and share as the wedding favor. If the smell of pine brings back sweet memories, raid your grandparents' neighborhood trees for centerpieces. If you or your fiancé are known for being intellectual, goofy, athletic or artistic – let this be reflected in the rehearsal, ceremony and reception.

Valerie Lynn Photography

5) Seek to glorify God.

If you are a follower of Christ, I cannot urge this enough. Marriage is God’s design, his institution. He desires that marriage reflect the gospel, the relationship of Jesus and the church. As the public celebration of this gift and responsibility, our weddings should point not just to ourselves, but to God. This is a challenge, and I had to remind my heart with these words: “This is God’s day. This is not MY day. This is our wedding, but we are God’s.” This desire to glorify God can be manifested in the wedding setting in countless ways. Please take the time to prayerfully consider how to praise God and draw near to him in each aspect of the day.

Valerie Lynn Photography
I wish you good luck in your planning! Remember that the wedding day, like your marriage, will not be perfect. But it will be an exciting, beautiful time with your future-hubby, and the importance of this day is found in the commitment you're making to each other (not the commitment you make with a band or bakery!). Happy planning!

 For further exploration:
Wedding vow samples - Even if you don't want to write your own vows, there are many options to choose from!
Genesis 2:15-24, Proverbs 31:10-31, Ephesians 5:22-33, Philippians 2:1-18, 1 Corinthians 13 - A few verses from the Bible that may serve as good reminders/encouragement.