Sunday, May 29, 2011

Update by Numbers

6 days until Chandra Walls becomes Chandra Sugalski
5 hours we've spent reading Lord of the Rings so far this weekend
4 plates of leftover desserts sitting in our kitchen from our fund-raising recital on Friday.
3 months until I'm 23 years old
2 weeks until we leave for Africa
1 month until our one year anniversary of marriage

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Heart of Headship

This past semester I've realized something. God loves me. He loves me. And here is why that has hit me so hard- because this past semester I've also realized that I really don't come close to earning any kind of favor with God; that I'm not the awesome, adorable one in the relationship.

It's funny that we all get it so backwards sometimes. Non-Christians often think "God likes so-and-so because she's a good person" (I wrote about that here) and Christians often think "God likes me because I'm a good person." At least, Christians often subconsciously think that.

I'm a good example of this- I would have sworn up and down that God's acceptance of me has nothing to do with my performance...and yet, when I realized just how poorly I actually can and do "perform" before God, I lost all confidence in His love for me. My feelings betrayed my true beliefs (more on this later).

So, what does all this have to do with headship? Well, one day in the midst of this muddy semester realizing where God's love actually comes from, I was praying, "thank You for my husband"...and I just started bawling.

I started bawling because my husband loves me so well. In my first year of marriage I've realized just how selfish, angry, rebellious, and lazy I am- and my husband has responded to all of these qualities with a quiet, steadfast love toward me. Example? I have plenty. One night I had planned on making shrimp for dinner and I was sooo excited to cook it up. When I opened the fridge and realized the shrimp never made it home from the grocery store, my vision went red. Steam started rising. Naturally, my husband had to hear about every aspect of this tragedy, and I wanted him to suffer with me. Instead, he fielded my anger with "well sweetie, I can make us a salad or we can go back to the grocery store and get some more shrimp. You let me know."

I was exposed. My immaturity and self-centeredness was obvious to both of us, and yet his tenderness exposed me with grace. His consistency in the face of my plummeting mood (and blood sugar) made it clear that he wouldn't be pulled down by my theatrics but also that he wouldn't stand over me and condemn me for them. Instead, he just loved me.

That's a silly example, but it's one of a thousand. I realized that over the past year, I have never been so consistently, so tenderly, and so faithfully loved- because I've never been so fully known. And it is with this kind of knowing that Christ knows me...the absolute depths of my sin. And I don't just mean past sin as in "I had sin before I became a Christian." I mean current, day to day lack of faithfulness toward the God who saves me, toward the God who carried me out of a brothel and put a wedding ring on my finger; the God who covered my shame with His robe of pure white.

So this first year of marriage to Michael I've realized in a thousand ways, "wow, I am consistently snotty toward you, and you are consistently kind. Why do you love me?" which has just allowed me to see one millionth of how utterly I fail in loving God, who deserves far more devotion than Michael. And yet, my God is consistently kind; consistently faithful; consistently gentle in exposing my selfishness and restoring me. This realization, that God doesn't love me or stay in relationship with me because I deserve it- has rocked me.

So...back to headship. The answer to my question about why Michael loves me always ends up being, "you're so good." This works in a lot of contexts. "Why do you treat me so well even when I'm being a jerk? You're so good." "Why aren't you getting mad? I just insulted you. You're so good." He's not staying calm and gracious and generous because I just make it so easy for him, oh no. He's doing it because of his character. And that is the clearest picture of Christ he could give me.

"Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her that He might sanctify her...this mystery is profound, but I am referring to Christ and the church." Eph. 5:25, 32
Now I'm not making a comprehensive statement about what headship is and what it's not, but I am saying that during that time of fellowship with God, I realized that my husband's behavior toward me and example of love to me has shown me Christ's character so clearly that it is transforming the deepest beliefs of my heart. And that is at the very center of what husbands are commanded to do.

That's the heart of headship. It is changing me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

May 2010 Memories

Since I'm still feeling reminiscent...

Three best friends who came all the way to NJ for my senior recital...

One amazing bridal shower hosted by Alice and Chandra for all the girls in Princeton...

My "house family"...

My home family- two grandparents, one uncle, five siblings (my oldest brother drove all the way through the night to get there!), one mom...

...And one adorable fiance

...made my college graduation week very, very special for me.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Here Am I, Lord! Send Me

One year ago, I walked across the stage of the Princeton University Chapel to graduate from Westminster Choir College. My experience there was such that a year later I still come to tears remembering- and grieving- that time. I may write more on this later, but for now I don't know what more I could say other than share the text of the song we got to sing at Commencement- it was our "anthem of dedication," written for two choirs; the graduates make up one and all the other students make up another. Right before receiving our diplomas, our graduating class sang "Here am I, Lord! Send me"

If you've never heard this or you're not a classical music person, just try it. If you're a WCC grad, listen and hear words in a new way.
Text is below; watch and listen along here!

"Whom shall we send? And who will go for us?"
"Here am I, Lord! Send me"

God is working His purpose out as year succeeds to year
God is working His purpose out and the time is drawing near-
Nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be
When the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea

What can we do to work God's work, to prosper and increase
The brotherhood of all mankind, the reign of the Prince of Peace?
What can do to hasten the time, the time that shall surely be
When the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea!

March we forth in the strength of God with the banner of Christ unfurled
That the light of the glorious Gospel of Truth may shine throughout the world!
Fight we the fight with sorrow and sin to set their captives free
That the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover sea

"Whom shall we send? And who will go for us?"
"Here am I, Lord! Send me."

Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord, to Thee
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise!
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee
Take my voice and let me sing always, only for my King!

Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee
Take my will and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne
Take my love my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure store
Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee

"Whom shall we send? And who will go for us?"
"Here am I, Lord! Send me"

O Jesus I have promised to serve Thee to the end
Be Thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend
I shall not fear the battle, if Thou art by my side
Nor wander from the pathway, if Thou wilt be my guide.

O Jesus Thou hast promised to all who follow Thee
That where Thou art in glory, there shall They servants be
And Jesus I have promised to serve Thee to the end!
O give me grace to follow my Master and my Friend!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Day and Gandalf the Grey

My 13th birthday my mom threw a little party for me. We were new in Greenville, SC and I'm pretty sure that most of the girls who came were doing me a favor. Anyway, my mom had this flowery stationary and asked all the girls to write me a little note (which was funny because most of them barely knew me.) My mom also wrote me a note and though I don't have it in front of me, I remember almost exactly what it said.

This stationary reminds me of the work God does in our lives. Isaiah 58:11 says, "
And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail." Hannah, my prayer for you is that God will give you a teachable spirit. As you learn from Him, He will make you like a "well-watered garden."

I didn't find this letter weird because my mom has always been rattling off Scripture and prayers; though I'll admit at 13 I didn't meditate much on it. But 10 years later, I still remember it almost verbatim. Why? Because my mother truly labored for me in prayer. And it truly has changed my life.

The year later, my father died. I could write a book on all the ways I rebelled in my grief. Classic teenager stuff on steroids. But looking back on my journals, I can see a theme that developed during those years. "God, I really need help. Please change me. Why do I keep doing these things? I need you. Please heal me and teach me to live and think and feel and believe differently."

Basically I screwed up so much that I realized I needed to start admitting it and listen to older, wiser people who would get in my face! And believe me...they did get in my face. It wasn't fun. But it changed my life.

So back to my mom. She loved me enough to listen to God for me. She loved me enough to bruise her knees for me. To get in my face. To go to war (at times against me!) for my sake. She loved me in the least convenient, most uncomfortable, most sacrificial kind of way. Day after day after day. In the aftermath of cancer and the death of a father, when all of us kids were melting down and falling apart, guess who didn't do the same? The one who actually took care of my father for four years- who cleaned his wounds, made his meals, sat at his bedside in countless hospital rooms, washed his hair, and held his hand as he took his last breath- who watched the love of her life die in front of her- was left behind with six children. She probably had the most reason to give up, to stay in bed for weeks at a time and just quit. But I never saw her do that. In fact, I can't think of a morning that I didn't have a hot breakfast before school.

Instead of quitting, she chose to "dress herself with strength and make her arms strong." She chose to fight back against depression, despair, and death. And she not only fought for herself, she fought for her six children. Tirelessly. In the face of unspeakable opposition, she remained steadfast. I remember moments that I (and two or three other of her children) screamed curse words to her face, hating her, taking out all our wrath on her. But she didn't quit, and she didn't give up on me, or any of us. And like I said, it has changed my life.

I apologize if you're not a Lord of the Rings freak like I am, but here's a picture of someone else who fought for others against a dark enemy. Surprisingly, my mom loves being compared to this old wizard with long gray hair. In fact, she nick-named her mini van Gandalf the Grey :)

"Her children rise up and call her blessed; many women have done well, but you surpass them all."
Proverbs 31
I hope to be like you when I grow up. Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Little Miss Save-the-World

So this Africa trip has kicked up far more "dust" than I ever expected. I mean, lots of people go on a "mission trip" for a week, right? Not a big deal. Well one could almost say that it's unnatural the amount of opposition, discouragement, and disillusionment that has surfaced over this silly week long trip. It's almost like God had plans of His own in store that I wasn't quite aware of when I "signed up."

Here's what I mean. About four years ago, my brother gave me a shirt for Christmas that had this cartoonish, smiling earth and the words "Little Miss Save-the-World." In a family that loves to tease, it was definitely a favorite that year. But in all seriousness, there was a reason he thought of me when he saw it!

So here I am, Little Miss Save-the-World, getting ready for my first trip to Africa. Talk about feeding the monster! Again I reference some of you who might be rolling your eyes or laughing along at the irony of my words. Well, I think God has been laughing too- and gently putting some things in perspective.

Over the last two months, I've been surprisingly discouraged by the disapproval of certain people. I've been surprisingly fearful about the amount of funds we need. I've even been surprisingly unfaithful in my pursuit of Christ in the midst of these realizations.

So in short, I've realized that Little Miss Save-the-World can't even save herself. And in the pain of disillusionment with self, Jesus has met me with the Gospel in a deeper way. Jesus, who sees behind my sorely mistaken "heroic notion" of myself, doesn't let me fall in order to "cut me down to size." Jesus, who sees the depths of my incompetence- more than I do in my greatest moments of clarity- doesn't reject me. Instead, He allows me to see (how quickly!) I come to the end of myself, in order to give me something gloriously better- Himself.

I'm learning- again and again- that He doesn't love me on the basis of my love for Him. And He doesn't do any good thing in me on the basis of my "power"- because I have none on my own. In this I'm reminded who the real Savior is- and that He is saving me.