Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Now You're Just Showin' Off"

"God is a Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows..." Psalm 86:5

An amazing (and almost comical!) account of some ways God the Father has provided "money and manna" in my life:

1. My mom told me she would support my choice of a college, but that she couldn't contribute financially. Given those circumstances, choosing to go to a school that cost $40 thousand a year seemed pretty crazy. Mom, Grandma and I prayed about this- I asked God for lots of clarity. "If you want me to go here, please provide all the money" (In the back of my mind I was thinking, "time to start looking at state schools!") The day before I had to sign my commitment form for Westminster, however, my mom called me and said "the school just called and offered you two more scholarships. You now have a thousand dollars more than you need!" Even my books were paid for that year, by my loving Father who had made His will abundantly clear (and had a good time doing it!)

2. My junior year of college, I had to move off campus. This meant I had to find pocket money to pay rent because it couldn't come out of scholarship funding through the school. In May I started praying and in June my grandmother called me and said, "some real estate funds of your father's that have been tied up for years finally came to your family. We're going to give you a portion of it to do with what you feel is best." The amount was about $10,000- just enough to pay rent for the next two years.

3. I was blessed with two part time jobs during my first years at college, and I saved 5 thousand dollars to buy a junker to get me to and from NJ for school. Then one morning my uncle- my father's surviving brother- called and said, "I matched the amount you saved (actually he about tripled it) and bought you a brand new car!" For 5 thousand dollars, I got a 2009 Toyota Corolla and it is serving the King family very well right now.

4. My senior recital budget was pretty slim. My family was coming from out of town and I didn't want to burden them with the task of preparing food, but we definitely couldn't afford catering. Some people at my church, however, asked my mom what her "recital budget" was for the reception. She said about $75 (she's so good at saving money to help her children.) The people at the church took her $75 and gave us a catered and beautifully decorated reception that would have easily cost a thousand dollars. And they gave us a free space for me to sing in, and they recorded the whole thing for free (people in the singing world know what a big deal all this is!)

5. I got to wear a gorgeous, perfectly fitting, designer wedding dress- for free. A friend lent it to me! Another friend offered to cater and host our rehearsal dinner for free, and host our wedding reception. For free.

6. Are you laughing yet? It gets better. In Dallas, our first week here a family offered us a brand new apartment right next to their house- for free! Not least, I was offered a job at the seminary (making our only having one car actually possible) where Michael and I can both have full health benefits, I can make my own hours around any classes I want to take- for free.

This is just one of the many ways God works. He puts compassion in the hearts of others- they generously give- we are blessed in very specific ways that only God could have known and orchestrated in advance- we brag on God- others are encouraged!

To quote a lesser theologian, Jim Carey says of God in the movie Bruce Almighty, "now you're just showin' off." I'd say that's how I feel too, sometimes :)

If you have a story of God's excellent provision, share it here! Or if you have a need and would like prayer, post that! Or email me.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Valentine's Day for a Single Mom

My mom is single. Widowed with six kids. Romantic, right? She was not sulky about Valentine's Day but it certainly wasn't something she awaited with the eagerness of a new bride (not that I know what that's like...) She also has memories of my dad's funeral being on Valentine's Day weekend, which also happens to fall the day after her birthday. Yuck!

Needless to say, she was fighting a bit of loneliness and "woe is me" on her way back home after a visit to Dallas. Coming back to the often harsh reality of single parenting would be a challenge on any day, much less on a day that is already a land mine for self pity if you're not skipping through fields of flowers with your loved one as every Valentine's Day add says you should be!

However, one of the things God has been teaching my mom has to do with His being her husband in a sense. He provides, protects, loves, and cherishes her. He fathers her children. He cares for her in little ways. Here is one of those ways-

When she got home late on Valentine's Day with a meager two days worth of groceries to put in the fridge, she found it fully stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. She also found the pantry full of food. The kitchen was spotless, the stairs were polished, the rugs cleaned, the driveway pressure washed. (She described the driveway to me as "glowing in the dark!") A group of young people, including some of her children, had prepared all this for her along with a few Valentine and birthday gifts.

When my mom called to ask who had been involved, her friend Lindsay simply said "that's not important. All you need to know is that it was a team of people who love you, people from all over."

"For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of Hosts is His name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth He is called." - Isaiah 54:5

"The Lord...cares for the widow and the fatherless" - Psalm 146:9

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"I want to see Jesus!"

What a beautiful post! Please read this. I would copy and paste it here but I am not sure if that's plagiarism!

A little background information- this girl, named Katie, lives in Uganda with roughly 14 adopted children and serves the people of her village in various ways. I've been so enriched by her deepened perspective on life (and her deepened love for Christ) as a result of being exposed to some of life's realities that we in America don't always come face to face with. I hope it blesses, challenges, and encourages you to look at Jesus.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Broken Hallelujah

Do you ever lose yourself in a song? It's late, you're driving home through the soft rain and you're alone with music. You start the drive in a perfectly normal mood but by the time you pull into your driveway, you're feeling quiet, and maybe even alone in a strange way. You might be with a friend, but somehow the music takes you to a place inside yourself where nobody can follow.

My night ended like that. Michael and I were driving home from a friend's house but after some time with the music, I found myself out of words. This is one of the things I love most about music- it can speak to places in our hearts that words sometimes can't. It reminds us, if we let it, that there is more to us than just the outer clamor and clutter of our lives; there is more than we tend to acknowledge.

But why do we hide from ourselves? Why does it take a moving song on a silent drive or a surprisingly beautiful poem or a stunning piece of art or ballet to remind us of who we are? I think more often than not it's because who we are underneath is hurting. When we experience something truly beautiful often it makes us weep because it reminds us that we're in pain; afraid, lonely, and grieving. We've been hurt. We've mourned loss. We don't know what to do with ourselves and the questions our own pain poses, so we bury it. We hide what we really feel, what we really think...behind constant background noise and distraction- behind busyness and meaningless activity- behind snacks, movies, wine, ceaseless chattering.

But when I was reminded of myself tonight- when I came in contact with my loneliness, my pain, my grief, I realized something. Even if Michael can't go with me to every memory, every tear, every loss, Someone else can. There was One who was there through all of it- who not only sees my pain but understands it and who can comfort me in it. Sometimes we think of God as this Triumphant Hero (which He is), or this Positive Force (which He is) or this Being who makes us "feel good" (which He does!) But He is more than that. He has suffered too. He has been alone too. In fact, He did those things for our sake.

The song I got lost in tonight was "Hallelujah" by Rufus Wainwright, and I heard some lyrics that made me think of Christ.

"Love is not a victory march, it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah"

Now I need to be careful here, because God is most certainly victorious. But He also was broken for us. "This is my body, which is broken for you, and my blood, which is shed for you." God in Christ allowed Himself to be utterly broken on the Cross; completely surrounded by darkness- for our sake. In that moment He took on Himself all my loss, all my painful moments, all the abuse I received and dealt, so that I could have newness of life. I think of Him hanging on that tree, bruised and broken, and at the end breathing "Hallelujah." It is finished. The price has been paid for Hannah. I've given myself for her that even in her pain, she may have hope. What better picture of Love is there?

We don't need to hide who are are underneath; we don't need to stuff our pain with distraction because there is hope in Christ to face it...all of who we are and all of our hurt.

I've been here before
heart spilled on the floor
knees brown from hitting the ground
three feet inside the door.

You were there too-
I remember You
You knelt down with me on the ground
and you held me like you knew.

...You swept my heart up, too.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Death to Life

I found this post on my old facebook notes, and by some crazy coincidence, two years later- in Dallas!- it's snowing on the same day. Maybe it's more than coincidence and God is speaking the same beautiful words to me (He does that, sometimes. I'm a bit like a sheep and need reinforcement.) So here it is:

Today is a special day for me. Seven years ago, my dad died of cancer. As I was looking out the window this morning I realized that it made sense that today the world is covered in white. Such a hard cold that seems to kill everything in its path followed by a beautiful, silent blanket of beauty; this is how God has worked in my life. When my dad was sick and I began to have experiences I was not yet able to process or even handle, I lost my ability to function. When he died, I remember feeling like I was dying too, or that a large part of me had died. The winter storm had left me bare and broken.

Then, in the years following, it began to snow. God was gently wrapping me in a protective blanket of white, covering my brokenness with His beauty- putting His glory and His love on display in my season of heartache. As I learned to walk with Him through my season of grief, I began to understand what Jesus meant by "blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted". A blessing filled with pain- to know intimately and experientially the loving, comforting arms of my Savior- to learn to trust and "live in" His love more deeply through an experience of seemingly unbearable sorrow. And oh, to come out on the other side!

Spring always follows winter. Spring, which bathes the world in the splendor of new life is only made possible by the death that precedes it. God prepares the earth for the new work He is doing by removing the old, tired life and then nourishing it to return fresh and new and full of color. The death I experienced in my heart was real and necessary- God killed my sense of control, my false idol of a comfortable life, and most painfully, my worship of self. How gracious that even in the process- in the middle of winter- He covered my deadness and displayed His goodness by covering me, protecting me, cleansing me in His beautiful white. And He has tenderly cultivated new life inside me, bringing forth a joy and fruitfulness with an array of color I would have never though possible of my once-dead heart. The loss of life I experienced made room for a new passion: a passion for the God whose story is much bigger than mine, the God who "turns mourning into dancing" and who can make out of ordinary, broken people "a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor."

The most beautiful piece of this story is that this new passion is a seed my father planted in me on the day of his diagnosis. He and my mother said to our family that day, "we have decided that whether I live or die, we want my life to give glory to God". He and my mother honored that commitment, and gave themselves to that desire. In it, my father lost his life. With my old heart, I couldn't understand: what God is this, that my father so willingly would give up his life? His dream of raising six children was given back to the God who gave him the children in the first place. Now that I have seen the goodness of God for myself, I can begin to understand. Living in the light of Jesus and great story is so much more rewarding and full than living it for myself. Today, I thank my father for being willing to give himself to teach me what he may have never been able to by living- Daddy, thank you for helping save my life by giving yours away.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Money and Manna Part 2

This Tuesday we had our first snow day in Dallas- which really was more of an "ice day" because there wasn't a lot of snow, but the streets were like ice rinks! It was actually icy enough that we decided not to drive (which is saying something, since my husband prides himself in being an experienced Jersey driver.) We'd been planning to have dinner at a friend's house that night, and being barricaded in left me wondering, "what will we eat tonight?" (I say me because my husband doesn't think about meals until he's hungry...and one of us plans meals for the week :) The space in our apartment literally gives room for a week's worth of groceries at a time- and at the beginning of the week we planned for dinner at Jade's house on Tuesday night, which meant we didn't buy groceries for a Tuesday dinner this week...and when you have a grocery budget that you need to honor at certain stages in life, one unplanned dinner feels like breaking the bank!

We've been realizing financial "concerns" in a number of areas lately, which is probably what caused me to be a little nervous about what we'd do for dinner; student loans and tuition payments have become a nasty combination when set against a $10 an hour job! So this week we've started praying again about how God might want to provide, how we can practice trusting Him when we can't see what's next, and how we can responsibly steward what we have and even what we don't have.

So God always uses my silly concerns (ie. dinner) to remind me of His character. Being a snow day, our landlords were home too. Around 3 pm they knocked on the door and invited us to have dinner with them for the first time. It was such a small thing, but I know it was my God reminding me that He provides for our every need. And didn't He teach us to pray for no more than our daily bread? Sometimes I get really worked up and want to pressure Him to provide my yearly bread- now!- (or school loan, or tuition payment, or mission trip) but He gently reminds me He hasn't necessarily promised to work that way. He has promised to teach me how to depend on Him and to trust Him to provide enough for today.

Remember the Israelites in the wilderness? God miraculously provided Manna for them daily- and plenty!- but they were instructed not to take more than they needed for that day. (See previous post, "Money and Manna Part 1")

I don't know what He has in store for our financial provision, but I know He is capable. And I know He is good. And I know His main goal is not to make me comfortable- it's to make me confident in Him.

10 Ways My Wife Does the Same For Me

10 ways me Wife wife does the same for me:

1. She doesn't let me get away with simply pontificating about politics, and asks me (holds me accountable for) where I get my information.

2. She makes sure that we never make any medium-large (sometimes small) decisions without praying about it first.

3. She has the courage to try any recipe, even if it calls for things we've never heard of, and it tells us to do things we've never heard of doing.

4. She exercises even when we're snowed-in for four days straight...but will also enjoy a glass of wine and bag of chocolate during dinner.

5. When we're talking about Jesus (with or without someone else), she makes sure it's grounded, and not just an intellectual conversation about a detached topic.

6. She checks blogs, publications and videos (anything she can get her hands on) about real people struggling in real situations and in real need of support; she informs herself on the under-publicized needs of the (usually third) world.

7. She holds me accountable for time watching Television.

8. She remains joyful and peppy even when she is going through something difficult...and if she's even not joyful, she's still got pep!

9. She does not focus all of her attention on her appearance, and what the world thinks of her (yet she's still the most beautiful woman I know).

10. She weeps for joy and for sorrow, allowing her emotions to be seen.

...and just for equal measure...

11. She is humble enough to be able to hearing correction, or a new viewpoint, or guidance in a way that I can only aspire to.

- The Hub