Monday, August 29, 2011

one for you, love.

By Mary
I love you more today than I could have dreamed when I met you on a small island that fall, surrounded by turquoise water and warm breezes. We played board games and told jokes and bought random candy at the little store across the street and it felt like we’d known each other for years, not hours.

I love you more than when a dozen roses showed up at the front door and I couldn’t help blushing bright red because “just friends” don’t do those kinds of things.

I love you more than when we met again in an airport at Christmastime and we were like a couple of tongue-tied kids meeting a stranger .You only talked to my family and barely looked at me the whole rest of the day.

I love you more now than when you said I looked adorable, the first compliment you ever paid me in words. I floated on a cloud when I went to sleep that night.

I love you more than the first time we said those three words to each other and I thrilled head to toe. We said them many times over every phone call we had after that.

I love you more than when I was singing lullabies to my last few darlings still awake during their afternoon nap on a South African winter day far away from you. Another girl came in, saying I had to see something and I wondered what it could be that couldn’t wait. I got a gorgeous basket of flowers from you that day and told the story of us a dozen times over.

I love you more today than on those days of misadventure when you were just trying to get on one knee and ask me to spend life together as your wife [and I was swallowing a bite of cheesecake as I said yes]

I told you the other day that my personality would be compatible with just about anybody but you had to have someone like me. We laughed and there was truth in it, but the truth is I need you too. Truth is you grow me in a thousand more ways than if we just got along comfortably. And God knew it. Maybe there isn’t just one person in the world a person could love and be happy with, but I know that God chose you for me forever.

On our anniversary you asked if marriage gets better after the first year. I smiled and said that I hope so. But in my head I wondered too, has it really been so bad? Because when you smile at me and hold my hand, all the fights and hurt and anger and the times we just can’t understand one another, those things don’t matter. I can see them making us closer by God’s redemptive plan.

Our story has been one of redemption from the start, of failures and habits and walls of distrust, of mercy and grace and beautification. Still He’s restoring the years eaten away by sin and the now moments of sarcasm and impatience, the harsh words that leave our lips unguided by His grace. Every time we talk it through and we both really share and stop to listen, a wall goes down. We know each other more; we took a step along His path, more together.

Our romance isn’t always like the movies, but I see your love when you come with me every time to the grocery store and push my cart, or listen to my girl talk when there’s no one else to hear it, or take me to a concert even though you’re tired. I see it when you work hard every day to provide, surprise me with a trip to Starbucks, or take our dog out for me because you know I’m just tired.

I loved you so soon after we first met and through everything life has brought along. But I don’t love you only for what we’ve shared or the things you do. I love you-who you are, who you’ve been, the person God is making you. I love you in your mistakes and successes. And everyday you become another reason for me to thank God, a daily gift for all our life together.
I love you...then and now and always.

Monday, August 15, 2011

when comes the rain

By Mary

The skies are slate gray, heavy-laden with water just ready to fall down in torrents as it has the past several days. There was a river of it running through the grass when we took our dog out last night and with dripping hair and wet feet I think again of God's perfect timing, His good gifts, how He sends the rain to the earth in it's season.

In the past month, there have been two special dates marked in blue pen on my calendar. One year since I married the love of my life, two since I met the children who stole my heart forever.

I remember so clearly choking back the tears when Alanna and I said goodbye to our families at the airport and ventured through security. I remember sitting, waiting to board a crowded flight, catching up on the last week or two that we hadn't seen each other much with our last minute preparations and spending time with people we'd be leaving behind. We griped about not even knowing the time because we left our cell phones. And we wondered why had decided to go to a city as far away from home as we could get in the world when we were perfectly happy with the lives that we had.

And oh how overwhelmed I felt when I wandered up to the nursery the morning after our late arrival with the dishes piled high next to the sink and baths underway and people going here and there with a job to do and however was I going to fit in here? I didn't know til months later that the hardest thing about the entire experience would be leaving.

And then our wedding--all fun and bliss and dreams come true. Two people so in love--and stubborn, impatient and oh so sinful. I've read so much about marriage and heard such great advice and somewhere along the line I began to think that it takes hard work to make a marriage perfect ntil I realized that a marriage is hard work--and it will never be perfect.

We have our starry-eyes and our giddiness and our fights and the times when our favorite person on earth seems like the worst one we've ever encountered and even in this first year our commitment has come down to such an ugly-beautiful as "I know God hates divorce so I won't".

So I look out at the rain falling in sheets and I see more clearly every day that God has a plan far beyond mine. Sometimes the rain feels sweet and warm and sometimes it's cold and stinging. Sometimes the days just seem so dry--and never is life what I expect it.

God reaches beyond my expectations and allows me to serve and live in beautiful South Africa, to love well snotty noses and spit-up and sticky kisses and dirty nappies, to break my heart for precious lives and grow me through the year and a half away from them.

He shows me His love for me, not just when my husband and I love each other as He's called us to do, but when our relationship shows us how much patience and compassion He has for us-His bride, His children, His people. What sacrifice for sinners, what tender mercies for His broken redeemed.

You visit the earth and water it,
You greatly enrich it;
The river of God is full of water;
You provide their grain,
For so You have prepared it.
You water its ridges abundantly,
You settle its furrows;
You make it soft with showers,
You bless its growth.

You crown the year with Your goodness,
And Your paths drip with abundance.
They drop on the pastures of the wilderness,
And the little hills rejoice on every side.
The pastures are clothed with flocks;
The valleys also are covered with grain;
They shout for joy, they also sing

--Psalm 65:9-13

Thursday, August 11, 2011

lasting brokenness

by Alanna
So the news has finally reached American soil, and even though it hasn't made big headlines yet, if you search for it you can find stories of the drought in eastern Africa. They say that the drought has affected an estimated 12.5 million people. The biggest refugee camp in the world, Dadaab, Kenya, now holds 400,000 people. Children starving, political violence, families fleeing. Always, requests for money to help alleviate suffering. This reminds me of the disasters that came before- the tsunami in Asia, the earthquake in Haiti. We are faced with a choice, as always. It's not a hard choice though, really. To open up our fat wallets and write a check. To mail the almighty dollar as we close our hearts and turn back to our petty sandcastles. Will this be like everytime before? A small snippet in the newspaper, months later, explaining that the Red Cross actually didn't send that aid to Haiti. The harsh reality, one and a half years later, that the crumbled down buildings still lay where they fell. And all of us still walking about, one more callous added to our already impenetrable hearts. I pray that this time, we recognize that maybe money is not enough. That maybe money was just meant to be a start, and maybe God meant what He said when He said to care for orphans and widows in their distress. I pray that this time, we don't move on from another disaster. I pray that our hearts stay broken. That we remember and grieve everyday for the millions of individual God-images, that are starving to death all the time. I pray that our grief and our brokenness, move us to action. And that our hearts remain pliable, broken shards in the hands of our Creator. Mourning for the lost, begging God with tears in the dirt, for Him to come and restore all things.

Monday, August 8, 2011

1,000 words

(photo credit Tori Braun & Tricia Harnish)

...and if you're looking for something to really read, check out

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

life is too busy

by Alanna

Only because it's been so long since I posted, I'll write a quick update on my life for now. I have been crazy busy the last month, and also had lots of time to think on long, long car trips through 8 states. I have thought of multiple things I'd like to blog about- my sister's wedding, the way my family looks out for each other, the ache in my heart for my son far away, getting a new job and signing a year long i-promise-to-stay-in-america contract, beautiful reunions with dear friends. The list could go on. One month ago my little sister got married, and then just two weeks ago we moved her and her husband down to Texas. Home for a day, and then I drove up to Minnesota for my dear friend's wedding. Met my Australian friend there, and drove back down to Denver with her and the cousin to have more fun times. We went to the mountains on Monday, downtown on Tuesday night, and today I officially started work. I do plan to write (soon) about this new path that God has pointed me down. But for now I just have time for a quick Andrew Murray quote. Ironically, in all this insanity, I have been reading a book called 'Waiting on God'. It has been quenching, convicting. I want to be better at this.

In waiting on God, it is of infinite consequence that we not only submit, because we are compelled to, but because we lovingly and joyfully consent to be in the hands of our blessed Father. Patience then becomes our highest blessedness and our highest grace. It honors God, and gives Him time to have His way with us. It is the highest expression of our faith in His goodness and faithfulness. It brings the soul perfect rest in the assurance that God is carrying on His work. It is the token of our full consent that God should deal with us in such a way and time as He thinks best. True patience is the losing of our self-will in His perfect will.