Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chapter Eight: Right at Home

Moving to Charlotte, Shane and I felt like we were on a mission, working for a clear purpose given by the Lord. Called away from the hometown I had known for so long, away from my family and close friends, yet I was confident we were on the right path for our lives. God provided the purpose, the way, and even provided a couch when we got there, but I was away from family and out of my comfort zone.

Several people had suggested that we find a home close to Uptown; if we didn't, the joke was, no one would come visit us. It had been a joke, but it was true and we were glad that suggestion had led us to an apartment complex less than ten miles from Uptown Charlotte. Many of our apartment neighbors were young couples enrolled in seminary and we were in proximity to many new friends. We were beginning to feel belonging in this new community.

The church members seemed excited to have Shane leading them in worship and Shane seemed so fulfilled. Watching him in action made my heart so proud, not to mention the sheer number of new songs he was writing for the church that were biblical, deep and thoughtful, "user friendly" songs for musically impaired folks like myself.

The children loved being around their new church friends (at the time there were over 150 children under 5 years old) and I was slowly getting to know the other women in the church.

For the first time I was far from home in a permanent sense. Growing up, my family wasn't always close emotionally, but always close in proximity. If I had a ballgame or pageant or other special event, my family and often extended family showed up. Their physical presence said they loved me. (Even on my wedding day, when they were not happy about my marriage, they came.) For the first time really, I couldn't be with them, and they couldn't be present with me on any regular basis. I have to say we missed free babysitters too; on our dependable ministry budget, it was still hard to afford a babysitter so Shane and I rarely had dates. God used that time to further draw Shane and I into a dependence on Him and on one another. Even so, I still dealt with guilt over denying grandparents and great-grandparents the privilege of seeing their grandchildren and because of distance, my not being able to see family for every birthday or life event.

My parents came a couple of times within our first six months being in Charlotte, but my three living grandparents couldn't come on their own. I missed them. We made it back to Tennessee for a late Christmas with our families and excitedly announced the coming of our third child.

We traveled back to Charlotte and began the new year. As my baby belly grew, so did our excitement for expanding our family. We had a scare early on in the pregnancy when I bled for fifteen days. Even though my doctor saw nothing alarming on the ultrasound, we were driven to our knees. By God's grace, the bleeding stopped and we anxiously awaited the arrival of our newborn child. In May, we traveled back to Tennessee for my sister's college graduation knowing the next time we came, our family would be bigger.

As my due date approached, I began to feel homesick. I knew most of my family couldn't travel to see me when the baby arrived because of other obligations at home. A welcomed distraction came when Shane said some college missionaries who had been working on the hurricane Katrina recovery would be traveling through Charlotte and needed a place to stop and shower before they lodged for the night. Shane spoke of one of the students who was reportedly disfigured and sensitive, so we prepared our children for how to respond. The day of their arrival came and as always when guests are coming, I cleaned our home from top to bottom. While I was in the kitchen making a batch of cookies, Shane called to tell me they had arrived, and I should make the children go to the back bedroom for a moment to prepare them. I told the kids to go back to my room. While I was quickly finishing up the cookies, Shane came in with the people, I walked into the living room and there stood.......two of my grandparents with my parents!

I was literally speechless. Then I began weeping. I had known Shane long enough to see through his lying jokes, but never saw this one coming. Shane had concocted the whole plan right down to the disfigured guy (so the kids wouldn't spoil the surprise when they saw everyone enter). My parents were in on it too, and my mom, knowing I'd panic if they showed up and I hadn't cleaned, told Shane to say something that would get me to clean up before they arrived. Shane cannot keep a surprise to himself; that showed an exorbitant amount of restraint on his part. What a gift!

That was one of those moments I really, deeply felt loved. In those kind of moments I get a glimpse of the real love of my Heavenly Father and know that He is my true home.

"There are no 'if's' in God's world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety - let us pray that we may always know it!"
— Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place)

"If you look at the world, you'll be distressed. If you look within, you'll be depressed. If you look at God you'll be at rest." Corrie Ten Boom, Nazi camp survivor

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
— C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chapter Seven: Couches

When Shane and I had come home from our honeymoon back in the summer of 1999, he immediately had to catch a bus or plane - I can't remember- to New York to play guitar for a country group. We weren't used to living together, so it didn't bother us being apart for a few days. I was excited to set up our little apartment. Always looking for a good deal, I went to a few yard sales that Saturday and was so excited to find a clean little loveseat that fit perfectly in our living room, never mind the country blue plaid fabric that had obviously adorned it for many years. I managed to find a slipcover for it on clearance and as most slipcovers go, it looked nice when no one had been sitting on it.

Four years later in anticipation of our move to Charlotte, we had sold many of our belongings including our full size couch, but decided to keep our little loveseat. Anticipating Shane's final commission check from Dell, we thought we might purchase a new couch when we settled into our new home, a very beige two bedroom apartment.

We arrived on a rainy July day, greeted by our new neighbor and another church family who brought us pizza. Much later, the movers arrived with our belongings and we began to arrange what little furniture we had. I have a flare for interior design - though never have the budget to do what's in my imagination - and could only laugh at our little blue plaid loveseat that sat in our new living room.

I was disappointed when I learned that because of the timing of leaving Dell, we would not receive that final commission check and that meant - no new couch. Our little loveseat was cozy for Shane and I with the two children on our laps, but when new friends came to visit, seating was limited. Our new church had a website with classified listings so I took a chance and posted a "gently used couch wanted for purchase" ad, hoping to find more seating for us at a bargain price.

Working with a meager budget for the past ten years, I've become even more thrifty, shopping at tag sales and thrift stores, finding deals on ebay and even attempting to sew my own curtains. I usually get new clothes around my birthday and Christmas and don't have time or the budget to shop very often. I am in the habit of identifying real "needs" verses wants and I'm usually okay with this lifestyle; it makes finding bargains a game. Yet, so often I have my secret little internal list of material things I want. Most of the time I don't even realize I have a list until my mom calls wanting to know what I would like for Christmas. In my life I've always prayed for the big picture things: health, financial provision, food, etc., but the little things, especially material things that aren't truly "needs" I tend to not submit those requests to the Lord in prayer. I always thought those requests were petty and a waste of time.

About five months had passed into our Charlotte adventure and I wasn't thinking about a couch and had forgotten about my classified listing when the phone rang. A woman from church was calling to ask if we'd like her couch; she had new ones arriving that day and wanted to give us her old one! Her husband delivered it to us later that night. It looked brand new and was gorgeous; I was elated.

As silly as it seems, I know God used that gift of a new couch to show me that He knows me intimately. He knows my thoughts and the desires of my heart....even the material ones that I don't think matter and am too stubborn to ask Him to provide. I am His child and I do matter to my Lord. How often I forget!

Once again, He had provided for us in a real, tangible way by a seemingly "random" phone call. Nowadays, I never know what to expect when the phone rings!

And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:30-31

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:1-3

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chapter Six: "God Move Me"

For old times' sake, the other day I chose to drive my husband's car, the 1998 Honda Civic that was my college car. The engine stutters, the axles creak and even after several years have past, it still smells of Shane's pizza delivery days...

Back then, confident that I needed to be home with my two children, Maddie, two and a half, and Jonathan, ten months old, we were surviving. I longed to contribute to our financial stability. Shane was making a meager eight dollars an hour delivering radiators during the day and pizza at night, and I began babysitting a little boy a couple days a week in our home. There were days we literally scrounged around for change to buy a loaf of bread while we awaited the next payday. We were struggling, but happy to be together.

Shane was always coming home telling me about the interesting people he had met in a car shop or at their front door: immigrants, cancer patients, loners, the elderly, and young families like us. Spending so much time in the car, Shane was listening to radio shows and tapes that strengthened his fervor for the gospel, for people (and for politics too, I might add). Though happy he was working hard to provide for us, I knew he didn't feel fulfilled. Internally creating a secret list of possible solutions to get us out of this poverty occupied my thoughts constantly.

Trying to see the big picture of our life together and God's plan in our mess of debt and our struggle to make it through each month, I felt unsettled and Shane was feeling it too. Our pastor encouraged Shane to explore the possibility of becoming a worship director by looking into open positions and learning what qualifications they required. He contacted a few churches; some were encouraging and some blew him off. Eventually, he decided not just to put music on the back burner, but scrap it all together and search for a "real" job that would provide well for our family. He got hired through a temp agency that employed at Dell computer and within a couple of months he had been officially hired by Dell. Quickly he became one of their top four salesmen. Commission checks were finally trickling in and we were feeling hopeful about getting back on track, moving away from the struggle and being secure financially.

I had every reason to be hopeful, but I was sad. I couldn't understand why God would have given Shane the gift of music and let it go to waste. In college, I had struggled to pick a major because I've always been able to do well in different areas, but no one "gift" or calling ever stood out for me. I have always admired Shane for recognizing his God-given gifts and trying to use them. He is an excellent guitar player, singer, and writer. He can pick up almost any instrument and play it well and he literally hears music in his head. Those gifts are not man made or learned.

I felt unsettled. I didn't think God wanted us to stay in my hometown and I was afraid Shane would grow to resent me and the children for giving up his musicianship. One night, finally giving up on my attempts to come up with a plan of action on my own, I prayed. I simply prayed, "God, move me, settle us down where you want us to be and please use Shane's music to bring glory to your name."

Early the next morning while we were still in bed, the phone rang. Shane stumbled to kitchen to answer. A few minutes later he returned to our room. With a smile on his face, he said "Would you want to move to Charlotte, North Carolina?" What?! He explained to me that the person on the phone was someone to whom he'd briefly spoken about a worship director position months before. It turned out to be the church that had blown him off, telling him that they had two other candidates lined up and were certain that one of them would work out. The elder who had called had written our number from his caller i.d. on a post-it note. A couple months passed, the other candidates did not work out, and he found the note stuck to a tennis racket when he was cleaning out his car. He was calling to ask if Shane was still interested in the position. Of course!

I was astounded and knew immediately that God was working to actually "move" us! When I had prayed the evening before, I was thinking "move us to Nashville, Franklin, Bellevue, ...", never out of state, out of my comfort zone!

After several long phone interviews, the church in Charlotte flew both of us out for formal interviews. We returned home excited and feeling called to Charlotte. A couple weeks later they flew Shane back out for one final interview and offered him the job.

"Why would we move away from a profitable job with great benefits, the promises of prize money and commissions, and the soon to be realized potential of a six figure job?" our families and common sense would challenge. Why? Because we had no doubt that God was leading us there!

Twice now, God had used what seemed to be "random" phone calls to give us a clear, tangible, answers to prayers. On our own, we wouldn't have followed Him. But God, is sovereign over all and HE had given us the faith, the confidence to follow through with His perfect plan.

By July, Shane had moved to Charlotte and was coming back for us a couple weeks later. Heavy hearted leaving friends and family, on that steamy July day, we set out to Charlotte in the old Lumina my parents had given us a year or so before. By that summer in 2005, the air conditioning didn't work and the car often over-heated, but that day on the way to Charlotte a cloud followed over us keeping Shane and I and our two little ones comfortable. God hadn't given us a ticket out of our struggles, but a ticket to His plan of redemption and sanctification for our lives, keeping us dependent on Himself.

God has continued to -what I like to call- "wink" at us with His specific answers to prayers. In big, life-changing ways, and in small everyday ways He is there reminding me to trust Him. He is always faithful to me even when my heart, my thoughts, my works stray.

Today, I encourage you to listen to the song "He's Always Been Faithful" by Sara Groves in the video below. Reflect on and ponder the lyrics; it is a favorite of mine and has spoken true in my life.

Stay tuned as I fill in the gaps and connect the dots for His perfect story of my life....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chapter Five: Transforming Poverty

Moving from a beautiful hundred year old four bedroom country house in my home town into a one bedroom basement apartment with no windows, a walk-in closet turned mini-kitchen was humbling. I had wanted the house, the car, the fine things, but most of all I had wanted a marriage and children. Over the next year Shane and I would have to fight for our marriage and family and forget the material things we so often desired. God brought us to this humble place emotionally, spiritually and physically. He stripped away everything and made us utterly dependent upon Him. He had provided in a real and tangible way, yet humbled us to poverty.

While it would've made sense for me to keep working full-time catching up on our debt and saving, that was not where God wanted me. Emotionally I was broken and needed to reconnect with my baby girl and with my husband. God used that time to put Shane in a position where we completely depended on his work to provide for our family and to heal our marriage. As he was recovering emotionally, Shane bounced from job to job: painting & drywall repair, bellhop, valet, and once again, pizza delivery. The thing we wanted most was for him to get a record deal and much of his time - his heart- was focused there.

A few weeks after our son was born, a real record label was interested in Shane and his music! We were excited in anticipation of what lay ahead. They planned to put him on a European tour with a known artist that spring. We couldn't have been more elated. As we waited for more details to follow, our hopes began to fade. Eventually the label folded. There would be no tour and NO record deal.

We struggled to pay the few bills we had, and often struggled to buy food. We were experiencing poverty. Here I was, a college graduate, married to an intelligent, talented man with two babies, and we didn't have enough money to buy groceries. Shane had already sold the guitar his mother and dad had bought him a few years before she died, along with much of his gear and equipment. The only thing of any value left was my engagement ring. I had had it since I was seventeen and had imagined wearing it for the rest of my life, but our children needed to be fed. Too proud to ask for help from family or friends, and too embarrassed to admit to our church family who had so graciously helped us before, I slipped it off of my hand and gave it to Shane, asking him to sell it so we could buy groceries. Even now, when I see it missing from my hand, I mourn it's loss, but it's absence reminds me of where we've been and how far we have come.

Even during our time in a free living situation, we struggled to stay afloat. We incurred medical debt when three separate occasions sent us to the emergency room, one involving an ambulance ride. I have no doubt we could have qualified for government assistance, but were convicted not to go that route. Financially, we were no better off than before we had moved. Trying to find meaning in all this was difficult. While my head was immersed in the biblical doctrine of God's sovereignty over all, my heart was struggling to believe.

Shane got a steady job delivering radiators for $8.00 an hour and we moved back to my hometown. Our marriage was strong and our children were precious to us in a new way. On paper, one would wonder how we survived on that little income, but I am confident that it was God Himself delivering us through every turn.

I was learning that the value of worldly possessions and success is worthless. I was beginning to trust my Savior to not only provide and sustain us, but to save me.....I still thought I was "good," taking care of my children and being faithful to my husband, but my inability to pay my debts was weighing heavily on my heart. They had mounted to a level that seemed insurmountable and I knew on our own we could not overcome them. God was revealing to me my own depravity, my own sin. While I was usually able to do good and be good, internally my heart was hotbed of sin. It had been full of doubt and despair, had thought of leaving my husband a year before, resented his unsuccessful attempts to make it in the music business, and often doubted the faithfulness of my Lord. Rarely, if ever, did I reflect on my own sin, seeking repentance from my God and from those I had wronged. I too needed The Savior. As though a veil had been lifted, I saw all my attempts to be the perfect daughter, the perfect wife and mother, had failed. I could not redeem myself, but the perfect work of Christ had already.

As I began to walk in faith in a new way, recognizing that I needed the saving grace of Jesus Christ, -not just for my head, but for my heart- I was refreshed and hopeful. I was being transformed by a new faith, a new hope and no longer had to look to myself or my husband for a way out of life's difficulties or even my own sin; I could truly trust God who was making my heart rich. God had taken us to that lowly place and would carry us through every circumstance with a faithfulness that no human possesses.

Today, I leave you with some scriptures that have given me hope and confidence:

2 Corinthians 7-10
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.

2 Corinthians 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Ephesians 2:4-10
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Stay tuned as I fill in the gaps and connect the dots for His perfect story of my life....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Chapter Four: Called, Loved, Kept.

I was starry eyed for the 22 year old young man I met when I was sixteen. He was a gifted musician who loved the Lord and spoke confidently of his hope in Jesus Christ; He knew the Word and could defend it. I trusted him to lead us spiritually, guarding our family with Truth. When he was performing on stage, singing his original songs and skillfully playing his guitar, I was enamored. From the moment I accepted his proposal of marriage, I imagined a bright future for us. I dreamed of supporting him as he rose to fame and worldly success in the music industry, having a house full of children, and being deeply fulfilled and happy. I had never imagined supporting him through the death of his mother and my friend. I had never imagined how the instability of the music industry would affect our marriage and our finances. I had never imagined depression or financial ruin entering my household.

We hadn't followed the logical, practical path for success. The American dream: the college education, the career, the house, the car, the vacations, the stuff, was not happening for us. The more we depended on ourselves, the deeper we struggled.

Finally, in my despair, I had turned to the only One who could provide a way out of this land of famine where we lay. I imagined Shane getting royalties from a hit song, money in the mailbox, or Shane finally getting a record deal. I prayed, and the God of All Creation had heard me and answered my cry...

Shane picked up the phone and his countenance changed. He was joyful. Moments later, he hung up and shared with me God's sweet provision. It wasn't a record deal, money in the mail, or news of a hit song...Some new friends we had met in a parenting class only a couple months before were calling to offer us a free basement apartment for a year so that I could come home full-time right away and so Shane could focus on fully providing for our family. We knew that God had answered our prayer in His perfect way.

Two days later, we learned that another baby was on the way. While our families mourned over this poor timing and the horror of us moving into a one bedroom apartment several miles away with two babies, the doctrine of God's sovereignty that we held so dear made us confident that God was working in our lives and providing for our needs.

We moved into that apartment with a walk-in-closet turned kitchen with our baby girl and my pregnant belly, thankful and humbled. We were thankful for God's grace to provide, but our pride was humbled by our inability to provide for ourselves. How it appeared to the world outside was humiliating. God hadn't used my solutions to provide (a hit song, money, or a record deal). He had not used ways that would give credit to me or to Shane. My God is not a tame God, but His mysterious ways are holy and perfect and He is jealous for His glory.

We believed that God "knows the plans [He] has for [us]...plans to prosper [us] and not to harm [us], plans to give [us] hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11). We had to believe He had called us to this place. As the next year passed, He would love us, yet keep us in a state of dependence upon Him and .....there He keeps us still. We were -and are- called, loved, kept.

Today, I leave you with the lyrics to a beautiful song my husband wrote. I wish it was recorded so you could hear the beautiful melody God gave him.

Called, Loved and Kept
Shane Martin

This world hates me
Like it hated you
Lies surround me
As I hold your truth

But it’s only by Grace and Sovereignty
I can suffer with You


I’ve been called by God, from death to life
I am loved by the Son who bled
I am kept by a grace that preserves to the very end
I am called, loved and kept

Infinite mercy
Love that has no end
Before the beginning
You took away my sin

And it’s only by Grace and Sovereignty
I’ve been drawn to You
©2002 Ninety5 Songs, ASCAP

I also want to send love to Chris & Hannah who so graciously responded to God's prompting of their hearts. That precious apartment was a gift.

Stay tuned as I fill in the gaps and connect the dots for His perfect story of my life....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chapter Three: The Good Girl

A small town country girl who was quiet and classy and a creative, smart, funny young man who was moved around by the military his whole life met in high school and married as soon as she graduated. Only seventeen, she moved from the only home she'd ever known, to Boston, Massachusetts, where he was stationed with the navy. Then on to Florida where I was born to an almost nineteen year old wife and her twenty-one year old husband....When I was three, my dad's stint with the navy was over and we moved back to Tennessee to the same street where several aunts, uncles, cousins and my grandparents lived. Always surrounded by family, there was never a time I didn't feel loved.

When I was five, we moved with my new baby sister in tow, to a small town closer to Nashville where my dad worked. I have never known anyone with such strong moral sense, diligent work ethic and integrity as my parents. Active in the church and community, they were never afraid to get their hands dirty helping someone else. Never legalistic, they inspired me to do good and be good. I always wanted to please them, wanted to be trustworthy and moral; I wanted to be pure in the eyes of God and of my parents.

Growing up, I was the "good girl." I certainly was never without sin, but the moral code I learned from my parents protected me from all kinds of trouble. Yet, I didn't realize I was depending on myself - my doing good to save me. I was blind to my sin, and blind to what my Savior had done for me. I thought there was a perfect formula, a checklist, to follow to enter the door of heaven.

Morality = check...Doctrine = check, check...What else was there?

Marrying and having a baby young, before having a stable career, I was following in the footsteps my parents surely wanted me to avoid... Now, here I was, barely twenty-three years old with a precious baby girl and I was thinking of myself. I was imagining what my life would look like if I violated my moral code, gave up on my marriage, disappointed my family, cut my losses and tried again. Shane and I had made it through a long tumultuous engagement and the death of his mother, but I could not see how we could rise above depression and financial despair.

The night I told my husband to talk to someone because I was "having thoughts I didn't need to be having," he left and I didn't know if he was coming back. By God's grace, he did come back and he had talked to someone. Shane had gone to our church and spoken with our pastor. He came home and assured me we would get through this unimaginably difficult time. Pride kept us from sharing that struggle with the family we loved so dearly - pride kept ME from sharing it. My moral code had failed me and left me in a land of famine. I was ashamed and continued to pretend all was well.

The following week, the church surrounded us, counseled us and comforted us, not just with pretty words, but with helping hands. They held Shane accountable for finding work to provide for our family and helped us financially.

Shane was hired to play guitar for a promising country singer and delivered pizzas again; our situation seemed to improve. All the while, we had been attending a parenting class with other Christian parents in the community and had shared our prayer request for me to be able to come home full-time. Selfishly, I hoped Shane's gig would be steady and lucrative and imagined him finally getting a big hit on country radio, one that would set us up for a while and let me be the mom I wanted to be. I was depending on my husband and myself to provide a way out. One night in desperation, I prayed, asking God to either fulfill my desire to be home full-time despite our impossible situation or to completely take the desire away.

The next evening, exhausted from work and sad for missing most of my baby girl's days, I broke down. As Shane was holding me, trying to offer words of comfort, the phone rang and my prayer was answered.......

"Hear my prayer, O Lord;
listen to my cry for mercy.
In the day of my trouble I will call to you,
for you will answer me."
Psalm 86:6

Stay tuned as I fill in the gaps and connect the dots for His perfect story of my life....

Monday, November 2, 2009

Chapter Two: The Honeymoon?

In the summer of 1999, Shane and I were married in a candlelit ceremony in the church I had known since I was a little girl. The next morning as we arrived at the airport, we were told that I couldn't board the plane without my marriage license (which was thirty miles away with my parents). My parents, who had been so anxious about our marriage were very gracious and seemed happy to bring it to us. We boarded the plane just in time. The day Shane and I came home from our honeymoon, he had to leave for ten days on the road with a known country group. I was setting up house - or apartment, rather - working and getting ready to start my senior year of college. The first few months could not have been better.

Four months into our first year of marriage, in October of 1999, we learned that Shane's mother's cancer was back after being in remission for almost six years. We were hopeful that surgery and chemotherapy would restore her body, but when the doctors opened her up, they found cancer throughout her abdomen. The next ten months of our new marriage was consumed with loving my sweet mother-in-law and seeing her ushered to the door of heaven in August of 2000.

That October, we were excited to learn that I was pregnant with our first child. I graduated college that December and immediately began working full-time as a graphic designer. In the back of my mind I hoped to come home full-time to be with her, but didn't think it would be possible. Her arrival was quickly approaching so we began trying to order our lives. After church hopping for a while, we agreed to proceed with joining the huge church where we had been worshiping, only to find they didn't have "membership". They offered a "welcome to [our church]" class so we began attending.

Growing up in a Methodist church where the people were truly sweet, and the messages were even sweeter: a few anecdotes tied together with one verse here or there, I was simply ignorant to matters of doctrine. I believed the Bible to be true, but never had been introduced to "doctrine". Thankfully, my husband had grown up in a solid Baptist church and recognized some essential biblical truths were missing in the church where we thought we'd be raising our children. One night, Shane came home from work and declared that we needed to find a different church. Normally, I would have retaliated, seeing how I was two or three weeks away from delivery and wanted this aspect of our lives to be set. I had admired Shane's spiritual convictions and ability to defend them from the day I met him, so I managed to listen to his reasoning and completely trusted him.

That week a friend invited us to a new Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) church in the area. We were welcomed by their warmth and astounded by the clarity of their doctrine and passion for the gospel. We had no doubt that's where God had led us.

The following Saturday I delivered my daughter, Maddie, by c-section and we began our new journey as parents... So everything should be happy now, right?

Still dealing with the loss of his mother, my husband became distant. His work in the music business was becoming less and less dependable. Our hearts -and wallet- would often break over the ethics of the Christian music industry. Shane began a pizza delivery job to make up for lost work. Ten weeks after delivery, I went back to work, heartbroken each day as I left my new baby daughter with a sitter. The burdens I felt grew greater every day as I pretended all was well. My hope of raising my daughter full-time was fading. I began to have thoughts that I knew weren't healthy for a marriage and I was scared. We could barely afford baby food and were beginning to use credit cards just to buy groceries. I thought I was alone. I didn't feel I could confide in my family because I didn't want them to be right about the struggle they said I would face as the wife of a musician. Shane was sinking into depression, and our two year marriage was drowning. After taking Maddie to the sitter, working all day, picking her up, feeding and bathing her and putting her to bed (all while Shane was at home barely getting out of bed), I simply told him "I'm having thoughts I don't need to be having. You need to talk to someone."

I had all this new found doctrine - doctrine I had always believed, but never had been able to articulate. I believed that God is sovereign over all, but I felt forgotten. What good was all this theology for my situation? Well, I tell you, it drew me to the cross where Christ saved my life and saves me still.

Stay tuned as I fill in the gaps and connect the dots for His perfect story of my life.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Chapter One: Beginnings

Every parent desires the "best" for their daughter - the American dream: health, wealth, and happiness. Financial or relational struggles, sickness and tragedy never enter this utopian dream for her life. Only an uninterrupted plan can achieve that dream: high school, college, career, then marriage and family. Marrying someone on a different path would complicate things too. No parent thinks "I want my daughter to marry a musician, a plumber, a mailman, etc..." No. "Job descriptions like that would not be fitting for my daughter's husband..."

Well, about fourteen years ago, the summer before my senior year of high school, I was struggling. After my close knit group of friends started dabbling with things that were not healthy, I pulled away. I found myself very lonely and anxious to get out of my small hometown to start fresh. I was no longer looking for self worth in my latest high school relationship, but was beginning to see things differently. My mom knew I was struggling and invited a young Christian man from work to take me out on a blind date with the purpose of encouraging me. Six years older than I, he was kind and funny and I remember thinking to myself "I'd like to marry a guy like this one day."

School started and I had every symptom of senioritis and could not leave quickly enough. I was still dealing with a bit of drama with the friends I still loved, but wouldn't spend time with anymore. I was hurt by how they were acting out towards me, and suppose they were hurt because I hadn't communicated with them. I just didn't have the gumption, or relational maturity, to confront them and tell the truth about why I was choosing a different path. A Sadie Hawkins dance was coming up and I finally got the courage to ask out the guy I'd had a crush on since sixth grade - and he had said "yes". While our friendship was developing, my mom's coworker started pursuing me and after a little hesitation, I went out with him again. One afternoon I was heartbroken over the loss of friendship I was experiencing and had a date planned with my mom's friend again. I was still wiping tears away when he arrived, pulled myself together and went out with him anyway. I really paid him little attention because I was focused on leaving, going out of state for greener pastures, and I wanted to see where this other relationship would go after the dance.

When Monday morning came around, he told my mom he wouldn't be asking me out again. When my mom came home that evening and said, "I think you may like him more than you realize...". I cried and knew she was right. After several attempts, he finally answered my call, came over to chat, and...well, he ended up being my date to the dance that December.

The night he came over to talk we agreed not to date anyone else and we became inseparable. Six short weeks later, we were engaged. At first, both our families seemed okay, but after a short time (and for the next three and a half years), my parents made it clear they were not happy about our engagement.

I was interrupting the perfect formula for attaining their dream for me. Not only was I not even out of high school and considering marriage, my fiance had no college degree and had moved to Nashville guessed it - be a musician! This was not ideal, and now, as a parent myself, I can truly relate to how they must have been feeling and all the red flags they were seeing. In three and a half years and many conversations, they expressed to me what an unstable life that would be....a life of feast or famine. Feasting when work is good, and famine when it wasn't.

By the time we married, Shane was making a decent living as a songwriter and guitar player and I was in my junior year of college, working part-time. Now, now that we were married we could begin the quest for our own American dream, right? Not quite..

Here I am, ten years and four children after being wed, and I can say I have not even come close to that American dream. The more I want it, the more I realize what a false hope it really is. I have faced tragedy, financial woes and deep struggles that could never have been solved by the American Dream, or any worldly thing. My trust in God, who is sovereign over all, over every detail of my life and yours is the only One who is able to satisfy the soul. I MUST choose to feast on the promises of my Savior and avoid wallowing in the famine that often lies in my heart.

Stay tuned as I fill in the gaps and connect the dots for His perfect story for my life....